Geoff Helisma | Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis says in a media release that he has “demanded” the NSW Government to fund the construction of a new helipad at the Maclean District Hospital in its forthcoming budget. “Ensuring the health and wellbeing of the community is my number one priority and should be the number one priority of all governments,” he said in a speech to the NSW Legislative Assembly on Thursday May 3. “The helipad, which was built on hospital grounds, was designed and built by members of the Rotary Club of Maclean in 2005 for approximately $70,000.” The Australian Government put $38,500 towards the original helipad through its ‘Regional Partnerships’ program in 2005, which assisted the Rotary club to meet its target. The club raised around $85,000 (including the grant) – the remainder was put into a helipad maintenance fund. Following the introduction of larger, heavier rescue helicopters last year, it was “identified that the elevated landing site at Maclean District Hospital did not meet the independent audit of existing helipads against new safety and engineering guidelines”, Mr Gulaptis said. “The Rotary Club of Maclean has embarked on another campaign to rebuild the helipad to restore helicopter retrieval services to the hospital; however, the funding required is beyond the capacity of any local community group. “Revised costing for the rebuild of the Maclean District Hospital helipad have dropped from $1.5 million to $750,000, but this is still excessive and beyond the scope of the rotary club.” He said that the “alternative, temporary helicopter landing site at McIntyres Airfield on Northbank Road, Palmers Island” which is being used at the moment, was “not an optimum situation because the airfield is approximately 12 minutes away from the hospital”. He said he has “written to the Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard, and … advised him that the helipad at Maclean hospital is a vital piece of infrastructure”. Mr Gulaptis commended “Anne Farrell, president of the Maclean Rotary Club and former director of nursing at the hospital, for leading a renewed campaign to have the helipad built”. “I am 100 per cent behind this campaign,” he said.