To the rescue ... Coffs Harbour is still waiting to become a base for a Westpac Lifesaver helicopter.
To the rescue ... Coffs Harbour is still waiting to become a base for a Westpac Lifesaver helicopter.

Sign off on chopper now

By PETER ROWE

COFFS Harbour MP Andrew Fraser has fired another broadside across the bows of the Department of Health after the Coffs Coast Advocate received a weak response to a request to base a Westpac Lifesaver helicopter in Coffs Harbour.

Mr Fraser called NSW Health Minister Rba Meagher 'out of touch' after she said she would set up yet another committee process to look at the plan.

"A feasibility study in the mid-1990s firmly established the need for a rescue helicopter to be based in Coffs," said Fraser.

"Why she needs another study is beyond me.

"It has been clear there is a need for a chopper here for over a decade we don't need another enquiry.

"What we do need is for Ms Meagher to stop sitting on her hands and sign it off."

Ms Meagher's office contacted the Advocate this week six weeks after we approached her for news of the rescue service to inform Coffs Coast residents it was 'not a simple case of the Minister signing approval'.

Her email read: "In 2007, the Ambulance Service of NSW renegotiated all of its existing rural helicopter contracts and will this year look at whether the existing service model should be modified.

The Ambulance Service in conjunction with the North Coast Area Health Service will this year assess the feasibility of a daylight EMS helicopter at Coffs Harbour.

"Specifically, this feasibility study will look into potential workload, clinical infrastructure and medical personnel required to support emergency retrievals as well as the funding required to support an EMS helicopter operation. Clinicians and the local community will be consulted as part of the service planning process."

But Mr Fraser, a campaigner along with this newspaper for a rescue service in Coffs Harbour, hit back, saying the proposed review was nothing more than political spin.

"It's playing politics with people's lives," he said.

"And I will hold her and the Iemma government personally responsible for any more deaths in the region that could have been avoided by basing a chopper here.

"How many more times must we read of Ambulance officers telling hearbreaking stories of patients dying in their care because of the lack of a service?"



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