Warrnambool to get bigger, faster air ambulance

A NEW air ambulance has been ordered for south-west Victoria with the state government securing some of the most advanced helicopters of their type on the market.

The $550 million initiative will bankroll a new fleet of ambulance helicopters within two years, replacing existing aircraft statewide including the helicopter based at Warrnambool Airport.

Premier Denis Napthine said the new helicopters were faster and could travel longer distances without refuelling, particularly pertinent for emergencies located in the far west of the state.

It was announced over the weekend that Australian Helicopters had been awarded a decade-long contract to operate new Agusta Westland AW-139 twin-engine helicopters for Ambulance Victoria.

The new fleet will replace the ambulance service’s five helicopters and will include a dedicated back-up aircraft to maintain services. “This is great news for south-west Victoria following on from the work of the existing helicopter,” said Dr Napthine, who is also South West Coast MP. 

“The new air ambulance has a greater fuel capacity, which is crucial given we are quite some distance from Melbourne compared to other regional centres.

“The new technology involved also provides for a quicker refuelling time.”

Health Minister David Davis said the new helicopters will be able to fly patients to Melbourne from locations more than 250 kilometres away — such as Warrnambool, Hamilton and Portland — in less than an hour.

Ambulance Victoria chief executive Greg Sassella said its emergency response helicopters based at Essendon, the Latrobe Valley, Bendigo and Warrnambool responded to 2283 emergency cases in the 2012-13 financial year.

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