The Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service is here to help when things go wrong

As we all know, communities in rural and remote areas face a range of challenges. One of the big ones - Isolation from medical services.

Farms are often difficult to access, which means that when accidents happen the role of the emergency services is critical.

Luckily for farmers and their families, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service has been providing an emergency services to rural areas, for free, since 1975.

Originally, the service was created by the ‘Newcastle Branch Surf Life Saving Australia’ as a surf rescue and coastal observation operation during the summer months.

James Lawrence, the Marketing and Fundraising Manager at Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service says the Service last month commenced a new era: now operating four aircraft’s out of three bases. The Service anticipates it will now undertake almost 1,500 missions each year throughout Northern New South Wales.

“We provide specialist first response trauma medical care, 24 hours a day, 7 days per week to a population of 1.2 million people,” he said.

“We respond to emergency situations or secondary transfers. Every flight that leaves has a four-person crew on board including a pilot, crew person, doctor and a paramedic.”

“The helicopter service we have is effectively like a flying Intensive Care Unit (ICU), which gets care to either the scene of an accident or can assist in a hospital-to-hospital transfer,” he said.

For the remote and rural community, the service can be a lifeline.

“The New England Northwest Region is extremely important to us. In this area, we tend to a wide range of incidents, including farming accidents. The urgent medical care can be critical because accidents can be such a long distance away from a primary care facility,” said James.

“We also help people who may need to be moved to a larger hospital with special care such as a burns or spinal unit.”

Unfortunately, for farmers and those that live on farms, when things go wrong the inaccessibility to medical services can put people’s lives in grave danger.

“We get calls to a range of incidents in rural areas, it could be an accident with farming machinery, a snake bite, a fall from horse, motorbike or a quad bike to name a few,” James said.

You can learn more about Jason’s experience with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter after he found himself trapped under a quad bike on his farm.

“We can also pick up specialist care such as neo-natal team and fly out to rural areas with humidicribs on board, to pick up very young children in need of medical care,” he said.

The Westpac Helicopter continues to provide its service through ongoing community support.

“No-one ever had to pay to be airlifted from an emergency,” said James.

“We have a really passionate and talented army of volunteers who do wonderful things to raise money in their local communities,” he said.

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter service has a strong focus on the keeping farmers safe, and in return, the agriculture industry provides them with a lot of support.

“To promote safety amongst the agricultural industry we have partnered with Alive and Well and Tocal Agriculture, and we run events with them to raise money for our services,” James said.

“We get a lot of support from the farming industry, we receive very generous donations, not always monetary; sometimes they will donate cattle or quantities of their product and when sold, the money comes directly to the helicopter service,” James said.

“These donations make a huge difference to our service.”

You can get involved and support the Westpac Rescue Helicopter service at the annual Alive and Well Ride for the Chopper event.

The 7-day event will see participants riding 400km to raise money for the much-needed service in our community.