Aeromedical inquiry says WA needs to double rescue helicopter fleet

Shadow Minister for Emergency Services and Regional Health Martin Aldridge MLC has welcome the findings of the Chief Health Officer’s Inquiry into Aeromedical Services in WA which was tabled in Parliament today.

Mr Aldridge said the Inquiry presented a strong case to expand WA’s rescue helicopter fleet.

“The report found there is significant under-resourcing for rescue helicopters in WA and the case for expansion is very strong in the Goldfields, Mid West, and Pilbara,” Mr Aldridge said.

“Notably, it found there was a lack of coordinated rescue helicopter capability in the State’s north, despite a clear unmet need to respond to incidents on land and offshore.”

“The report strongly supports an expansion of at least double the rescue helicopter fleet and recommends as many as nine rescue helicopters may be appropriate in the future.”

According to the Inquiry, “significant government investment” would be required to fund the gap in the rescue helicopter fleet.

Mr Aldridge said the findings presented a strong case for a rescue helicopter in the Mid West.

“The report confirmed something the Opposition and the Mid West community have long-called for. There is significant demand for a rescue helicopter in the Mid West,” he said.

“Research has shown a rescue helicopter would help save lives related to road trauma, and recent offshore incidents involving medical evacuation from cruise ships shows the need exists in the region.

“While the inquiry cautioned that further analysis was needed, it found a rescue helicopter was likely needed due to the estimated high caseload, significant overlap with peri-urban areas north of Perth, and the lack of a collocated Royal Flying Doctor Service base.”

There were almost 3,000 priority 1 ambulance cases within 400 kilometres of Geraldton in 2020- 21, which provided insight into rotary wing demand.

Mr Aldridge said the report was critical of the McGowan Labor Government’s current approach to the aeromedical system and make ten significant recommendations.

“It was confronting to learn WA has no policy, legislation or strategic direction with respect to statewide aeromedical and patient transport services,” he said.

“The inquiry recommends the State Government to develop a 10-year strategic plan for aeromedical services, and also for a Service Refinement Plan to be delivered within two years to investigate the best placement for future rescue helicopter locations.”

The creation of a centralised Office of Aeromedical Services to manage and coordinate WA’s aeromedical fleet into the future was also a key recommendation.

The decision by DFES to replace its rescue helicopter fleet whilst the inquiry was underway and without significant consultation was also criticised.

Mr Aldridge also questioned the Government’s motives for sitting on the report for almost a year after it was completed in June 2022.