The Australian Paramedics Association and Ballina MP Tamara Smith are opposing plans to move the Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service’s operations base to Lismore Airport, saying it may delay response times and risk lives.
The plan was floated in 2014 after the expanded helicopter service was given responsibility for a wider area and new, larger helicopters were ordered requiring a bigger helipad.
But paramedics say the area is prone to fog and a gathering place for fruit bats, which could reduce operating hours by more than 30 per cent.
Frontline workers say there has been no risk assessment done on the Lismore Airport location and a flood plan is yet to be completed.
They claim they were not consulted about the relocation of the service and are concerned patients could die if response times increase as a result of the move.
The Australian Paramdeics Association has called for a rethink on the relocation and Ms Smith has thrown her weight behind them, even though work on the new base is due to commence next month.
Ms Smith said she was concerned that ‘those operating the frontline of our rescue chopper service were left out of the consultation period’.
She added that ‘despite being vocal about having the pad location reconsidered for safety and take off factors it appears they’ve been ignored’,.
‘I’ve been informed the Lismore site poses a number of issues that produce less than optimal conditions for take-off – and frighteningly, 35 per cent of the year, take off isn’t possible at all!’
‘Fog presence, fruit bats, heat, flooding and distance from the coast are the indicators that make the Lismore site unsuitable, which begs the question, why weren’t other locations considered that do not have these risk factors,’ Ms Smith said.
‘The people of Northern NSW need to be assured that this critical emergency service operation has the capacity to function at its peak,’ she said.
‘With pilots and paramedics raising concerns and calling for alternative pad sites to be considered, it makes no sense to proceed with construction in February at Lismore in the face of such uncertainty,’ Ms Smith says.
The MP has written to health minister Jillian Skinner calling for an urgent review on the pad location, an explanation as to why no flood management plan or risk assessment on the site has been done, and is urging her to consider the voices of those personnel at the heart of our rescue service.