Rescue service in dire straits
IT WOULD take a mere $400,000 annually from the State Government to salvage the Sunshine Coast-based AGL Action Rescue Helicopter service, which saves thousands of lives every year.
The service is on the brink of collapse after anticipated financial help in the State Budget did not come through.
Expensive maintenance issues and an increasing demand has left the service seeking help to cover a funding shortfall, which increases daily.
An extra $30,000 was spent during a rescue mission in the Sunshine Coast hinterland last week.
The mission meant that two $700,000 engine rebuilds had to be brought forward to this week.
AGL Action Rescue Helicopter chief executive David Donaldson said fears were held that the service would not survive another year.
"At the end of the day, if nothing changes, that will be the outcome," Mr Donaldson said.
"There is always a shortfall. It is the way we operate as a community-based helicopter provider.
"What we need is to increase funding right across the board.
"Obviously the government is a key stakeholder in that, but there is no question that we need to increase funding from sponsorship and the community."
A major contributor to the shortfall was unexpected maintenance on the Bundaberg-based BK117, which required three rotor blades to be replaced at a cost of $55,000 each.
Similarly, the overhaul of the service's Bell LongRanger came in nearly $200,000 over budget after corrosion issues were identified.
A rescue mission in the hinterland last week cost the service $200,000, although the Federal Government has promised to reimburse $170,000.
Mr Donaldson said that with the recent unexpected expenses, the shortfall was likely to reach $400,000 by the end of the financial year.
"The government haven't come to the table, but we are getting a positive response from them," he said.
"Some recent activities have placed a drain on our resources and maintenance flow, which pops up from time to time.
"Just managing those ups and downs of cashflow is always an issue, which is why we need the financial help."
The service requested additional funding in the 2012-13 budget, but Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said the government did not "have an endless pot of money".
"We need to deal with the reality of an increasing demand and that's something that we will be doing," he said.