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Rescue helicopters using sport fields in Maclean

Geoff Helisma

The Westpac rescue helicopter is now using the sport fields adjacent to the Maclean District Hospital’s helipad, which has not been used since the introduction of heavier helicopters.

Over recent months the helicopters have been using the aerodrome at Palmers Island, 9.5 kilometres from the hospital.

Local paramedics say that has negatively impacted the ambulance service, as reported in last week’s Independent.

The Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) said in a statement, however, it “is not aware of any complaints being raised in relation to [those] arrangements”.

“All patients in the Maclean area continue to have access to helicopter retrieval services as required,” said the health district’s chief executive Wayne Jones.

“NNSWLHD is working closely with NSW Ambulance to ensure there are no interruptions to services in the Maclean area.”

On when the existing helipad would be replaced, Mr Jones said: “Northern NSW Local Health District has engaged an engineer to assist with … estimates for several options being explored for the Maclean helipad, including remediation and redevelopment.”

A statement from the rescue helicopter service said if the field adjacent to the helipad is unavailable for any reason, the “larger fields further east of the hospital” were an alternative landing site.

Other hospitals across the state are grappling with similar situations where the load capacity of helipads has been exceeded.

“A review by NSW Ambulance and the health department of all hospital helipads is well underway,” a rescue helicopter spokesperson said.

“An external aviation consultancy group [has been] contracted to investigate and report on the structural integrity and compliance with the aviation regulators of all hospital helipads state wide.”

The spokesperson said “Maclean helipad is rated as ‘high’ on their review program.”

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