A NEW helicopter base in Newcastle will form part of one of the largest medical helicopter retrieval networks in the world, the state's health authority has revealed.
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner announced on Friday that contracts were signed to develop the network, which will improve response times across the state.
Split into two regions, Northern NSW Helicopter Rescue Service will form from two existing NGOs to operate the northern section.
In a statement, Ms Skinner said retrieval would operate from an existing Tamworth base and "from newly constructed helicopter bases in Lismore and Newcastle."
In the state’s south bases will be based at Bankstown, Orange, Wollongong and Canberra.
Ms Skinner said the network would be running in 2017.“I have no doubt the new Helicopter Retrieval Network will deliver improved retrieval coverage for metropolitan, rural, regional and remote NSW and, most importantly, better outcomes for patients no matter where they live,’’ Ms Skinner said.
“The reform plan has paved the way for the streamlining of our helicopters and I’m pleased to say the larger Augusta Westland 139 helicopter will be implemented state-wide as the standard aircraft for the state’s aeromedical fleet,” Mrs Skinner said.
“In a first for NSW, this world-class aircraft will also be NETS (Newborn and Paediatric Transport Service)-capable to deliver life-saving clinical care to our smallest and most vulnerable patients.”
Mrs Skinner said aeromedical retrieval services play a vital role in delivery of care to patients across NSW.
“Our aeromedical helicopters are more than just transportation aircraft – they are mobile emergency departments in the sky, providing high-level, quality care to very sick patients,” Mrs Skinner said.
“This new Helicopter Retrieval Network will deliver a world class modern, flexible and effective helicopter fleet to deliver the best care for babies, children and adults and it will give more local paramedics and doctors the ability to get to patients faster than ever before.”
NSW Ambulance Commissioner Ray Creen said the network would help bolster an aeromedical fleet carrying out 3000 missions each year. “Retrieval service paramedics and doctors provide an exemplary aeromedical retrieval service to patients in all corners of the state,’’ Commissioner Creen said.
‘‘Today’s announcement not only secures this service, but enhances it for patients well into the future.’’