Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson has today met with Westpac Rescue Helicopter General Manager Richard Jones to discuss winching and the roll-out of new rescue helicopters.


Mr Anderson said at present the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service operates the BK117 helicopter, but a new aircraft the AW139 will be coming on line in Tamworth approximately May 2017.


“I believe there is real opportunity and reason to reinstate winching with the roll-out of new helicopters next year.


“The time is right to reinstate training of our emergency service personnel in winching operations in readiness for the new aircraft.”


The helicopter service was ordered to cease winching operations in 2013 following an aeromedical retrieval report which raised safety concerns with the low amount of winching being conducted in the area and subsequently recommended that operations be suspended.


“I believe the time has come to review that decision and there is a very strong case to reinstate winching in the New England Northwest as there are changing circumstances within wider and regional communities.


“As per my previous representations to the Minister, I again respectfully ask that a winching training program for local clinical crews be implemented so that they can once again perform that lifesaving operation from the Tamworth base should it be required.


“We have a highly professional and dedicated aeromedical retrieval service based in Tamworth and they should be provided the opportunity to use every rescue retrieval option available to them. Our communities depend on it,” Mr Anderson said.


Mr Jones said “The implementation phase is moving ahead full steam, the helicopters are on the production line in Italy as we speak with the first one due to arrive about July to move to the fit-out phase.


“The best thing about this is that we are fulfilling the Ministers implementation plan and her strategy to have the same helicopters and the same training across NSW in particular the North-West New England so we are thrilled with the progress.


Mr Anderson said he will meet with Health Minister Jillian Skinner as soon as possible to discuss winching and again state the case to have it reinstated.

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