ISTAT News | 03 September 2020
COVID-19 Grant Recipient Spotlight: Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service
The Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service in New South Wales, Australia, was established in 1975 by a group of Surf Life Savers as a completely volunteer weekend coastal patrol. With incredible support from its local community, the Service has continually evolved throughout its history and today operates 24-7 providing critical aeromedical, search, rescue and inter-hospital transfers to care for communities in the Northern half of the state of New South Wales. The Service is a registered charity and proudly regards itself as the “Community’s Own” rescue helicopter.
The Service now operates four (4) Leonardo AW139 aircraft from three (3) bases. Along with the Pilot and Aircrew Officer, every primary response mission leaves with a dedicated NSW Ambulance Critical Care Paramedic, NSW Health Doctor and depending on the needs of each patient the team may include specialist nursing professionals.
The Service’s mission is to “always be there for its community, delivering the highest standard of aeromedical services to those in need." And from the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic, it was clear that the service, like its peers around the world, was flying in to unprecedented times.
A critical priority has been to prepare the aircraft and its crews to control any risk of exposure to COVID-19. From an aeromedical point of view, it was agreed that Aircrews could be tasked to complete retrieval and transfer flights (hospital to hospital) of known COVID-19 patients if required; provide the same services for unconfirmed but symptomatic patients; or to respond to emergencies such as motor vehicle accidents, medical conditions or injuries.
COVID-19 delivered a double impact to the Service. As well as the increased costs associated with PPE and other forms of control to ensure ongoing 24-7 safe and quality operations, the Service quickly endured a significant decrease in community derived funding as it suspended all face to face fundraising (volunteering, events etc), and began to encounter the economic impacts of COVID-19 on the community’s capacity to give. We see that Australia has entered a period of recession and this fundraising challenge will remain for a number of years.
The ISTAT COVID-19 Relief Grant was gratefully received by the Service in July 2020. The Service has extended its thanks to the leadership team and staff of the ISTAT Foundation as it continues to focus on its mission, flying to assist community members on average 4 times per day. The safety and health of staff, patients and the community always has, and always will be the first priority.
For more information on the amazing work of Royal Flying Doctor Service Australia, please visit http://www.rescuehelicopter.com.au/.