Push for 24hr paramedics welcomed by helicopter service

By Alex Easton

A CORONER'S recommendation that paramedics be allocated to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter around the clock has been welcomed by the service, which says it would help patients.

The call was among a series of recommendations made by Senior Deputy State Coroner Jacqueline Milledge this week in her findings on the deaths of seven men including two Northern Rivers men in forestry and tree-lopping accidents between 2000 and 2002.

Ms Milledge recommended the ambulance service allocate a dedicated 24-hour paramedic crew to the helicopter, give more weight to the recommendations of experienced officers, give the service's Northern Operations Centre complete autonomy over dispatching the helicopter, and drop a rule that the helicopter is not sent first if an ambulance can drive to the scene of an accident in under 30 minutes.

A spokesperson for the ambulance service said yesterday it was 'currently reviewing' Ms Milledge's recommendations.

The spokesperson said paramedics were already available 24 hours-a-day on the Northern Rivers 'via helicopter or road' and that operating procedures had been adjusted to give experienced local officers greater say and discretion.

Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter general manager Perry Wells said the helicopter base was not set up to house paramedics around the clock.

"It would take a bit or reorganisation, but if something's an enhancement of the service you can achieve it and we would make sure it would happen," he said.



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