AGL Action Rescue Helicopter (AGL ARH) of Queensland and CareFlight NSW of New South Wales have announced a proposed collaboration between the two Australian aeromedical services, saying the move has the potential to improve patient outcomes, increase safety and training for crews, and enhance the delivery of regionally-based helicopter air ambulance and air rescue services. Staff have been informed of the two services’ desire to forge ahead with a national framework for community-based rescue helicopters.
David Donaldson, chief executive officer of AGL ARH, explained: “The AGL Action Rescue Helicopter and CareFlight NSW share a vision for a new national entity to consolidate community helicopter providers under a single model. It’s something we hope can involve other [such providers] as it evolves.” Currently, 11 community helicopter providers operate across Australia, providing life saving services from 15 bases, he said. Donaldson continued: “We believe a national framework would allow us to consolidate our depth of experience and capabilities. It’s about looking within the industry at the way we do things and out of that developing a national best practice. This could apply to everything from night landings and rescues to training and maintenance, ultimately improving safety for our crews and patients.”
Donaldson said that at this stage, the agreement between AGL ARH and CareFlight NSW is ‘simply to explore the possibilities’, but added: “It’s anticipated the collaboration could include staff exchanges, shared resources and joint ventures.” The not-for-profit services will retain their local identities within the community, however, and will continue to rely on sponsorships and community donations to meet funding shortfalls, he explained. Donaldson also assured staff that their jobs are safe: “We operate on the slimmest margin, with 90 per cent of our budget spent on operational costs just to keep our helicopters in the air. This is about strengthening our operation not about cutbacks.
Brent Chamberlain, chief pilot for AGL ARH, said the announcement came as a surprise, but that the collaboration was an exciting step forward: “I think it’s a positive move for the organisation. Everyone seems to have taken the news pretty well; we’re all cautiously optimistic. Something like this has been talked about for years, not just at AGL Action Rescue, but widely within the industry, so to see something finally happening and to be a part of that is pretty exciting.”