Rotary-wing aeromedical retrieval services in New South Wales, Australia, will undergo a major restructure this year with the closure at the end of March of the tender process for a new Helicopter Retrieval Network. The restructure is aimed at ensuring the service can cope with an expected 23 percent increase in demand by 2022.
A fleet of 15 helicopters (10 operational and five back-up) of various types, including Bell 412s, Airbus Helicopters AS365N Dauphins and Kawasaki BK117s, operated by five service providers currently provide aeromedical retrieval services from eight bases in the state. Under the new Helicopter Retrieval Network, the NSW Government is seeking to standardize to two twin-engine types capable of accommodating two stretcher patients and three medical crew plus equipment, supporting two “super regions” – Northern Region and Southern Region. The restructure is designed to improve interoperability across the fleet, efficiency and cost effectiveness.
An Ernst & Young review of the service in 2012, which prompted the restructure, showed that operating costs in 2011 were approximately A$112.1 million – or an average cost per retrieval of A$34,166, with 3,339 helicopter missions during the year. With the state’s population expected to grow by 15 percent over the next decade, missions are expected to reach 4,000 per annum by 2022.
The new contracts, which will run from seven to 10 years, must encourage “innovation while delivering a consistent, fit-for-purpose fleet that optimizes the quality, safety and cost of rotary-wing retrieval”, says the state government.
The tender process was launched late last year, with new contracts projected for signing at the end of this year.
Related: Helicopter EMS News