Neither will call it a turf war, but the battle for the limited charity dollar is causing tension between the Snowy Hydro SouthCare Rescue Helicopter and the CareFlight medical service in the ACT and region.
The chief allegation is that CareFlight's telemarketers are soliciting donations in the ACT with ''deliberate misrepresentation'' by wrongly suggesting a donation to CareFlight will also benefit the Snowy Hydro SouthCare Rescue Helicopter.
CareFlight director Ian Badham denied that was the case but welcomed any opportunity to address a complaint about a telemarketer because ''we take our reputation very seriously''.
''There's no confusion and our telemarketers make a very clear distinction that we do not purport in any way to provide the local rescue helicopter,'' Mr Badham said.
''They say we're providing aeromedical services to the region. We do not claim in any way to provide the local rescue helicopter. We are very clear in that distinction.''
However, Snowy Hydro SouthCare Rescue Helicopter fund chairman David Marshall said people were ''quite distressed'' and felt ''misled'' when they donated to CareFlight, believing they were supporting Snowy Hydro SouthCare.
''I've certainly had calls from CEOs in the ACT who've commented about the fact that these call centres do misrepresent. I had one CEO say to me that the call centre had said, 'Yes your money does go to CareFlight but it also goes to Snowy Hydro SouthCare','' he said.
''It's just a deliberate misrepresentation and that's the confusion.''
The Snowy Hydro SouthCare Rescue Helicopter service has a Canberra-based rescue helicopter which covers the ACT and south-eastern NSW, performing 372 missions in 2010-11. CareFlight does not operate any aircraft in south-eastern NSW but provides contracted doctors who cover shifts on NSW Ambulance Service helicopters, road ambulances and fixed-wing air ambulances throughout the state.
It also provides trauma training to volunteer groups across NSW.
It has one helicopter based at Westmead Hospital which services greater Sydney including the central coast, Blue Mountains and Southern Highlands.
Snowy Hydro SouthCare Rescue Helicopter fund chief executive officer Owen Finegan said if its rescue helicopter was already on a job, it was possible a NSW Ambulance Service aircraft possibly carrying a CareFlight doctor could cover another emergency in the region.
''CareFlight do a fantastic job as well,'' he said. ''But if you're looking at supporting the primary aeromedical rescue service in the local region, it's the Snowy Hydro SouthCare Rescue Helicopter.''
CareFlight has been using telemarketers to solicit donations in the ACT, through sales of its soft toy bears. CareFlight's 2011 annual report says total fundraising for that year including corporate sponsorship was almost $11.2 million, with the telemarketing bears accounting for 55 per cent of that amount.
The Snowy Hydro SouthCare Rescue Helicopter does not use telemarketers but raises funds through means such as direct mail and the sale of soft toy helicopters. In 2010-11, the rescue helicopter received more than $1.3 million in donations and sponsorship.
Both services receive government funding but say they need donations to keep operating. Mr Finegan maintained there was general confusion about the two services. He had been introduced at official events in the past as the chief executive officer of ''Snowy Hydro CareFlight''. ''I've spoken in regional areas and people have said, 'I support your service, I have bought your bear'. And I say, 'We don't actually sell bears'. And they're actually confused,'' he said.
Mr Finegan said CareFlight had previously promised to stop telemarketing in the ACT for six months after acknowledging it was a ''continued area of contention''. However, CareFlight's Mr Badham said it wouldn't be legal to stop one charity soliciting in a particular area. He applauded the work of SouthCare and believed there was ''room for all charities''.
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