After 18 years and over $7 million dollars, the partnership between Snowy Hydro and the SouthCare helicopter has come to an end.
Instead, the vital service, which transferred 75 patients from the Tumut region to city hospitals in the last financial year alone, will be funded by the NSW and ACT governments.
Co-ordinator for the Tumut chapter of the Friends of Snowy Hydro SouthCare fundraising group, Tim Oliver, said that he was currently uncertain if SouthCare will continue to require community funding contributions.
“We’re not sure yet, I’ve spoken to the head office in Canberra and they’re going to have an executive meeting and discuss it,” he said.
However, he said if the government would be handing over the full funding requirements for the helicopter, then their group too would come to an end.
Mr Oliver said he was celebrating the fact that the helicopter will likely not require fundraising efforts any more, which is evidently a good thing for the service – however, the shake-up is still bittersweet.
“We’ve been with them since 1998,” he said.
“We’ve lost a couple of chapter members over the years with people moving away and so on, and we’ve been only tied in with SouthCare all these years…if they don’t require us anymore then that will be the end of it.”
“It’s sad in a way, but it’s good the helicopter is guaranteed to not have a shortfall in funds.
“It’s all a bit up in the air – but if they do need money then we’re with them and the community is with them as well.”
SouthCare will be the beneficiary of a new helicopter this year, a 2016-model AW139 put out by Toll Helicopters, another move for the group, who was previously using the Canadian Helicopter Company.
It will be incorporated into a fleet of eight helicopters servicing regional NSW and the ACT, rather than being a stand-alone operation.
However its service area will be the same, covering the ACT and South-Eastern NSW including Tumut.
Friends of Snowy Hydro SouthCare have raised over $200,000 for the helicopter over 10 years.
Last year alone they raised over $20,000.
They were also instrumental in the planning and implementation of the helipad construction project at Tumut hospital.
SouthCare Trust CEO Carol Bennett said that the fact that SouthCare would now be government funded was a testament to Snowy Hydro and the community’s work keeping it going.
“Patients often tell stories of just what it means, in moments of major trauma, to hear the iconic sound of the Snowy Hydro SouthCare rescue helicopter coming to lend assistance,” she said.
“The service has received overwhelming community support over the past 18 years. It’s because of that support the ACT and NSW governments now see this as an essential service and have committed to fully fund core operations without the reliance on community fundraising.
“It’s a unique and outstanding success story.
“A bigger and better aero-medical service is great news for our region. The commencement of this new and enhanced service is not only a reflection of the crew’s outstanding professionalism, but it is a reflection of our community spirit.
“The SouthCare Trust is grateful to our sponsorship and naming rights partner of 15 years, Snowy Hydro Ltd, and to all our sponsors, donors, volunteers and supporters who have helped the service reach this milestone.
“Few charities fully achieve their mission. The SouthCare Trust has, thanks to so many people over so many years. Take a bow Canberra and our regional NSW community!”