In what has been described as an Australian first, Queensland’s two leading community helicopter providers – CareFlight Group Queensland and the Sunshine Coast Helicopter Rescue Service (SCHRS) – have announced their decision to merge into a single entity. In doing so, the combined operation will become the largest community-based rescue helicopter service in the country.
Consolidation of the state’s community helicopter providers has been under consideration for some time, but it wasn’t until January this year that the two not-for-profit services formally investigated the benefits of aligning their organisations.
Newly-appointed group chairman Rob Borbidge said the decision was powered by a mutual desire to improve patient outcomes and maximise the delivery of lifesaving services to Southern and Central Queenslanders.
“I am pleased to confirm the merger became official with the new financial year and to announce the two not-for-profit companies will move forward hand-in-hand under the banner of CareFlight Group Queensland,” Borbidge said.
“It’s important to know we enter this union as equals. Our members, and perhaps more significantly the new Board of Directors, has been created with equal representation from the two original companies.”
There will be no reduction in operations. Rescue helicopters will remain based out of the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, Toowoomba and Bundaberg.
Critically, it is hoped fundraising efforts will be eased as a result of the union, Borbidge explained: “This has long been an issue for both operations. But we believe our rescue services are made stronger and more resilient through this union, and crucially, that means a renewed ability to focus on providing the highest emergency medical and rescue air-retrieval operation, not just in Queensland but Australia wide.” The improved sustainability of the merged entity also means job security for staff and the opportunity to advance within a much larger organisation.
The two companies bring a combined 66 years of experience in helicopter search and rescue operations to the parent group. SCHRS is Queensland’s longest running community rescue helicopter and saved its first patient in 1979, while CareFlight (then Gold Coast Helicopter Rescue Service) launched its operation in December 1981.