AFTER 23 years of transporting the Riverina’s most sick and vulnerable children, Telstra Child Flight it will stop flying from January 1.
The not-for-profit organisation was recently informed by NSW Health it failed to win a tender to provide the emergency helicopter retrieval service.
It was the first time the service was put to competitive tender with CareFlight being awarded the contract.
Devastated by the news Telstra Child Flight board secretary Matt Hogg said the organisation has no choice but to fold, but is hoping the NSW government will honour its contract which states Child Flight must be given a six month transitional period for the adequate handover of services.
NSW Health have given Child Flight just six weeks, which Mr Hogg said will see them forced into voluntary administration.
“We want to be able to close with respect and we want to ensure the services will be there,” Mr Hogg said.
The six month grace period would also assist Child Flight wrap up its affairs and sell off its multimillion-dollar assets in an orderly sale as opposed to a fire sale.
Concern is also held over the short time CareFlight has to take over the service amid unconfirmed reports it will not be ready to take the service on from January 1 with a helicopter still to be refitted.
Mr Hogg said regardless of CareFlight’s situation, it would be not only in NSW Health’s interest, but in the interest of the wider public for the transition period to be honoured.
“What is of concern is that the system has let down NSW. It was slow to go to tender, slow to be facilitated and at six weeks out, they turn around and say ‘by the way, it’s all over red rover’,” Mr Hogg said.
“It shows a lack of insight and would have to be a bureaucratic blunder of the highest order.”
The closure of the aeromedical operations does not mean the Telstra Child Flight name will be lost.
Mr Hogg said the board hopes the charitable operation will be rebirthed to support the medical side of operations.
Member for Wagga Daryl Maguire said he had been made aware of the situation faced by Child Flight, but was not able to act until official representations were made about honouring the six-month transitional period.
About Telstra Child Flight
* It is the only emergency helicopter retrieval service for children and babies in Australia transporting critically ill and injured kids from regional areas to lifesaving medical care in metropolitan hospitals.
* It began in 1989 and has airlifted more than 7600 children. About 40 per cent of those retrievals came from the Riverina.
* It started with a twin-engine BO-105 helicopter and within 12 months a new BK-117 was delivered. In 2000 a second helicopter was purchased to improve service continuity before another aircraft joined the fleet in June 2010, a Bell-412.
* It is a registered charity, only partially funded by the government with the remaining funds coming from the generosity of sponsors and public donations.