Records sent flying in 27th year

AFTER 307 missions, the WestpacLife Saver Rescue Helicopter is winding up another successful year providing a vital lifesaving service to Northern Rivers residents.

General manager Kris Beavis said two of this year’s special highlights were the 6000th mission, completed in November, and the record-breaking 19 missions flown over six days during the May floods.

He also said the service’s financial position was looking good and it was full steam ahead for 2010.

Several key changes have been made to improve the service.

“We’ve implemented a new response system through the Ambulance Service’s Rapid Trauma Launch Centre in Sydney, where we now launch before the details are confirmed so the aircraft is in the air and on the way to the scene muchfaster than in the past,” he said.

“Another improvement for theservice is we now have an ambulance paramedic and a registrar doctorstationed at the base.

“This further speeds our response times as we don’t have to wait for clinical staff to arrive for a mission, and it also means we can now administer a higher level of clinical support in the field.”

The May floods provided a great example of the level of efficiency and professionalism of the crew.

As Mr Beavis explained, the service usually flies only one mission a day.

“To then fly three missions a day without incident in extreme flying conditions demonstrates the service’s true capacity and capability when called on in a crisis,” he said.

“And our 6000th mission waspretty special. We were flying apatient with a cardiac condition to Brisbane for emergency surgery which saved his life.

“Two weeks later he walked back into the base to thanks us. He told us he had been thinking about the value of the service and had actually been planning a fundraiser before his emergency.

“He told us that he didn’t know anyone who wasn’t touched by the service in some way, whether themselves or family or friends.”

Where some in the past have doubted the region’s ability to support a helicopter rescue service, 27 years later it has become an essential service we simply could not live without – thanks to the untiring support of countless volunteers and the generosity oflocal businesses and the community.

The service costs $6 million a year to run and currently only 40 per cent of funding is provided by the State Government.

The remaining shortfall of 60pc is provided by major sponsors and the community through fundraising activities.

“Really, without them we don’t function. We simply couldn’t survive without that continued support of business and the community,” Mr Beavis said. “There are a lot of other worthwhile charities out there, but people recognise the need for the service. It just takes that one accident or emergency for any of us to need it.

“People contribute in many ways. Whether working for our fundraising team or just helping out. We’ve got a builder who comes down to carry out work for us and an IT guy who works on our computers.

“We can match nearly any skill to tasks needing to be done.

“We’ve also opened op shops in Grafton and Coffs Harbour.”

The other key strength of the service, according to Mr Beavis, is the staff – past and present.

“It’s great to have a big shiny helicopter, but that is no use to the community without the right people to run it,” he said.

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