Behind the scenes of the Westpac Rescue Service

TO mark the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service End of Financial Year (EOFY) Donation Appeal today, a member of the onboard Critical Care Medical Team Dr Rob Bartolacci, gave an exclusive behind the scenes perspective on what it’s like working for the Service.

In the first four months of 2021, the Service’s three bases at Newcastle, Tamworth and Lismore have flown more than 500 missions.

Dr Bartolacci said it’s hard to imagine a person that hasn’t been touched directly or indirectly by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

NSW Health Doctor and member of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service Critical Care Medical Team, Rob Bartolacci. Photo supplied by the Westpac Rescue Service.

“The outcome for our patients is our primary goal. We take their best chances of survival to them, and without this, their outcomes would be significantly different,” Dr Bartolacci said.

“We have the world’s most technically advanced aeromedical aircraft, that’s basically a mobile intensive care unit. We can give an anaesthetic, provide pain relief or a lifesaving blood transfusion. We can support someone’s breathing, support their heart…we can even re-start their heart,” he said.

“All this happens in major hospitals every day. The difference is, we do it in the air,” said Dr Bartolacci.

On average, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter flies over 1500 missions a year, including responding to emergency Triple Zero (000) calls, inter-hospital transfers and search and rescue.

Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service CEO Richard Jones OAM said each year the community is so generous in support but he is mindful that EOFY donations may difficult following a tumultuous year of disaster events.

“I hope that thanks to Dr Rob, they can see where this support goes and the potential every donation, large or small, has to change people’s lives. This truly is a community-run service and every year we see that a little from many goes a long way and we are ever so grateful for the continued support,” Mr Jones said.

“We are mindful however that across Northern New South Wales, having endured COVID, drought, bushfires and most recently the flooding on the Mid North Coast, donation support may be difficult for many. We are all in this together and we hope our Appeal reaches out to everyone, with those who are able, taking the opportunity to make their support count,” he said.

“We are very conscious that not everyone is in a position to donate but we will be very grateful to those that can,” said Mr Jones.

The community can make donations to the Service’s Appeal at: or by calling FREECALL on 1800 155 155.


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