"THE PRESSURE is right on" to have a lifesaving service restored to a Tamworth-based rescue helicopter, MP Kevin Anderson has promised.
He told the Leader he had written to the state health minister after finding out a new chopper deployed to the Tamworth Westpac Rescue Helicopter base did not have a winch on board.
"It's a real concern," he said.
"If you don't have that capability, then that really does put lives at risk in my view."
A spokesperson for NSW Ambulance said the new chopper came online in May 2023 due to increasing demand for helicopter services, and to keep the Tamworth base going.
"This additional aircraft was added to the Northern fleet to assist with the significant increase in flying hours undertaken by these important clinical resources, and to facilitate ongoing fleet engineering and maintenance requirements," the spokesperson said.
He said he had the same concerns for community safety now, as when the winch was removed a decade ago.
"The time they take to get rescued could be a hell-of-a-lot longer, and could place their life in jeopardy," Mr Anderson said.
"It's all about being able to get to someone quickly, provide the emergency treatment they need, and get them to a hospital.
"If you don't have that capability then that really does put lives at risk in my view."
Since the new chopper was brought online in May, NSW Ambulance confirmed there have been no reports of crews being unable to complete a mission due to not having a winch-capable helicopter available.
They said the chopper allowed for a "full scope of medical retrieval operations", but could not carry out winch operations.
"The helicopter fleet is highly mobile and bases are strategically located to provide extensive coverage across NSW," the spokesperson said.
When the winching capabilities were axed in 2013, helicopters were called in from other parts of the state for winch-related missions before it was reinstated five years later.
Mr Anderson said it is "very clear" the Tamworth terrain needs a chopper with winch capabilities based in the region.
"We will not be accepting anything less," he said.
A NSW Government spokesperson said they had been advised by NSW Ambulance the new chopper allows for the full scope of medical retrieval operations, and maintains capacity for the Tamworth area.
"There are other winch-capable aircraft in the state's aeromedical rescue fleet should it ever be required," they said.
"The minister will continue to engage constructively with Mr Anderson and the local community with respect to this and other healthcare issues."
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