One of two Western Australian emergency helicopters faces the chop, with the State Government failing to commit funding beyond this financial year to support the Bunbury-based rescue chopper.
Currently managed by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and funded by the State Government through Royalties for Regions, the Bunbury RAC Rescue Helicopter was launched in early 2016, and has had more than 140 missions since its inception.
WAFarmers General Policy Executive Officer Grady Powell said the 24/7 helicopter service was able to reach areas where road ambulances often cannot.
“Agriculture is an industry which can involve remote living and higher-risk activities, and for people in those areas, access to fast and reliable emergency services is an absolute must,” Mr Powell said.
“These helicopters are a critical resource when dealing with what can often be life and death situations as they can reach areas that are not easily or quickly accessible by road.
“Regional and rural communities should not be forced to rely solely on road access by emergency vehicles; instead they should be complemented by the additional emergency service, which can be airborne within 15 minutes of a call.”
Mr Powell said cutting the Bunbury helicopter would be a disservice to the entire state.
“Approximately 95 per cent of the state’s population can be accessed with two helicopters in operation; just imagine how dramatically this coverage will drop if the south west helicopter is retired,” he said.
“The Bunbury helicopter has had more than 140 missions since its inception, and transported 172 patients in the 2016-17 financial year.
“Looking at those statistics, it beggars belief that funding has not been allocated for the Bunbury helicopter beyond this financial year, so WAFarmers will continue to throw our support behind the community and those who want to see the helicopter financed into the future.”
The helicopters are equipped with state of the art equipment and crewed by a pilot, rescue crew personnel and a St John Ambulance critical care paramedic. A doctor may also be on board for critical hospital transfers.
At least three separate incidents over last weekend required the services of the RAC Rescue helicopters, with one rescue having taken place in Donnybrook, one in Capel and one in Brigadoon. All three injured persons were flown to Perth hospitals for treatment.