Minister Davis announces $550 million for world-class ambulance helicopters

Health Minister (The Indian Sun Indian Magazine in Australia)

Victorian Coalition Government helps building a healthier Victoria with bigger, faster, stronger copters that can travel longer distances without refueling delivering the highest level of care and rapid transport

Victorians will have a new fleet of state-of-the-art helicopters from January 2016 thanks to an estimated $550 million Victorian Coalition Government investment, Minister for Health David Davis said recently.

Following a competitive tender process, Australian Helicopters has been awarded a 10-year contract to operate new Agusta Westland AW-139 twin engine helicopters for Ambulance Victoria (AV).

The new fleet will replace AV’s present five helicopters and includes a dedicated back-up aircraft to maintain services when heavy aircraft maintenance is required.

Mr Davis said the new helicopters would cement Ambulance Victoria’s reputation for world-class emergency aeromedical response, patient care and recovery from remote and difficult environments.

“Victoria already boasts a highly regarded, coordinated and effective air ambulance service which responds to every corner of the state, usually in times of emergency or critical medical need,” Mr Davis said.

“While the existing fleet is continuing to service the Victorian community well, the new helicopters will have the latest in avionic technology, are faster, bigger and can travel longer distances without refuelling. This means a significant improvement in times taken to transport the sickest patients from rural Victoria to major trauma centres. The new aircraft will be able to fly time-critical patients to Melbourne from communities more than 250km away in less than an hour,” he said, and added that this would also mean that rural communities will have enhanced access to Ambulance Victoria’s highest level of care and rapid transport to major trauma, cardiac and specialist hospitals.

“Having access to a new fleet of modern aircraft will enable flight paramedics to continue their crucial life-saving work,” Mr Davis said.

Ambulance Victoria CEO Greg Sassella said AV’s emergency response helicopters (based at Essendon, the Latrobe Valley, Bendigo and Warrnambool) responded to 2,283 emergency cases in 2012/13, transporting 1,810 patients.

“We pride ourselves on providing an advanced level of care, quick attendance and fast transport, usually in critical medical situations,” Mr Sassella said.

“Most helicopter callouts are for life-threatening emergencies, which are often trauma and paediatric cases. Our helicopters also retrieve patients needing priority transfer between rural hospitals and specialist services in Melbourne.

“Being able to replace our existing fleet with these helicopters with a standard fit-out and provided under the one contract will streamline training and operational processes for MICA flight paramedics, flight paramedics and crews. Above all, Victorians can be assured they are getting the very best care possible wherever they may be.”

Key operational benefits of the new fleet will include state of the art safety features including air traffic and terrain warning systems; faster flying times; increased endurance (range); ability to transport two stretcher patients if required; the latest avionics technology; and increased infra-red and night vision capability.

Australian Helicopters presently operates two helicopters for AV (based in Warrnambool and Melbourne) and similar services in Queensland and South Australia.

“We are extremely proud and excited to be awarded this contract by Ambulance Victoria,” Australian Helicopters Managing Director John Boag said.

“We look forward to continuing our support for the people of Victoria with these new technology helicopters over the next decade.”

In 2011, Ambulance Victoria MICA flight paramedics became the first in the world able to carry a supply of blood on helicopters to administer to patients requiring urgent blood transfusions.

AV also operates four King Air B-200 fixed wing aircraft, which are used in emergencies and for the routine transfer of patients.

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