RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Critical Care Doctors have flown through their first year on board the Bundaberg-based rescue helicopter, performing more than 189 missions since they joined the service.
Critical Care Doctors were rostered onto the local chopper for the first time in August last year with the first mission tasked on the 21 August.
Dr Peter Henderson was on shift on the first day when the aeromedical crew responded to an elderly man who suffered a concussion after falling from a horse while mustering.
He was airlifted to Bundaberg Hospital in what became the first of many missions involving Critical Care Doctors in the Wide Bay-Burnett region and beyond.
A few months later, Dr Henderson experienced a once-in-a-career moment when he was winched down to a cruise ship which was still travelling northwards, for his first live winch, to treat and retrieve a woman who had suffered a medical episode.
These were just two of many missions involving the Critical Care Doctors during their first 12 months in the Wide Bay-Burnett.
LifeFlight Chief Medical Officer Dr Allan MacKillop said the roles the Critical Care Doctors played was vital.
“We knew that there were patients who required critical care needing to be transferred down to major centres,” she said.
“We knew that there were major incidents and accidents in the region which would benefit from an immediate response by a critical care team.
“As it turned out, that was absolutely correct.
“We have attended over 80 primary missions, that is to motor vehicle incidents, to dingo attacks on K’Gari, rural trauma involving workers on rural properties and a host of major inter hospital retrievals during this time.
“So, it exceeded the numbers that we had predicted.”
The Critical Care Doctors enhance the already high standard of aeromedical care which has been provided in the region for 25 years by the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) Flight Paramedics on board the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter.
“The QAS Flight Paramedics have been fantastic for the service over many, many years,” Dr MacKillop said.
“By adding the Critical Care Doctor, it creates a critical care response which is like a flying Intensive Care Unit.
“It enables us to safely transfer patients both from accident scenes, which we would call a primary response, right through to complicated intensive care type transfers from the regional hospitals to the major city hospitals.”
The Critical Care Doctors were tasked to more than one hundred of those Inter Hospital Transfers (IHTs), ensuring patients could receive higher levels of medical care.
LifeFlight Regional Advisory Chair Neil McPhillips said the numbers said it all.
“The statistics from this first year of having the doctors as part of the aeromedical team, prove the need was absolutely there in the Wide Bay-Burnett,” Neil said.
“It was definitely time for the service to be enhanced and the number of critical missions shows it was justified,” he said.
It was thanks to the passion and dedication of the community and members of the Wide Bay-Burnett LifeFlight Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) that the Critical Care Doctors became part of the local service.
“We have always believed the residents of this community, no matter how remote they may be, deserve to have access to the same levels of medical care available in major centres,” he said.
“This is a booming region and we wanted to make sure people can prosper and be secure in the knowledge there is the best possible aeromedical care on hand, when they need it.”
They worked tirelessly to raise funds, with generous donors enabling them to raise enough money to provide doctors three days a week, before lobbying for Australian Government funding to supplement their efforts and expand to seven days a week since February.
“Well, it was an extraordinary response by the Wide Bay-Burnett community.
“We were all amazed with what we saw with the fundraising by families and by community organisations, by businesses and it was supported by everybody in the region,” Dr MacKillop said.
“I think it’s proven that it’s been a great success and we hope to expand on that service in the forthcoming year or two.”
LifeFlight and the RAC continue to work towards a goal of providing Critical Care Doctors rostered 24/7, every day of the year.