THE rescue helicopter group that services the Fraser Coast has merged with the Gold Coast-based CareFlight Group Queensland.
The newly appointed group chairman Rob Borbidge said the decision was powered by a mutual desire to improve patient outcomes and maximise the delivery of lifesaving services to southern and central Queenslanders.
He said the merger between Sunshine Coast Helicopter Rescue Service and CareFlight became official with the new financial year.
The latest move follows Monday’s news that RACQ had taken over from AGL as naming rights sponsor in a five-year deal worth $1.5 million annually.
Mr Borbidge said the two not-for-profit companies would move forward hand-in-hand under the banner of CareFlight Group Queensland.
New chief executive Ashley van de Velde said there were a lot of issues to work through but providing a sustainable future for community-run helicopters and focusing on job security for staff were guiding principles in making the decision.
“As charities, we’ve had to rely on renewed contracts and the ability to fundraise millions of dollars to continue our lifesaving work,” he said.
“This has long been an issue for both operations.
“But we believe our rescue services are made stronger and more resilient through this union and, crucially, that means a renewed ability to focus on providing the highest emergency medical and rescue air-retrieval operation, not just in Queensland but Australia-wide.
“No jobs will be lost in the merger process and the coming together of both companies provides opportunities for career expansion.”
The rescue service said importantly, for the more than three million residents and visitors within the 20 council regions serviced by RACQ CareFlight and the former AGL Action Rescue Helicopter Service, there would be no reduction in operations.
Rescue helicopters will remain based out of the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, Toowoomba and Bundaberg.
New executive director flight operations – community David Donaldson said the communities within the primary response zone could enjoy the same level of protection but with significant improvements.
“For example, just like any motor vehicle, there are times when these multi-million dollar machines need to be brought in for maintenance,” he said.
“With the broader expertise of our engineers working together it means each helicopter will be back in service sooner.
“It will also allow us to cover any downtime with a broader fleet of back-up aircraft, ensuring we remain in the air and saving lives.”