LifeFlight Australia announced a record-breaking 2022 with its fleet of helicopters, Air Ambulance jets, critical care doctors, flight nurses and flight paramedics helping a total of 6,978 people in the year.
LifeFlight Group Head of Operations Yvette Lutze said that total reflected over 20 people helped each day, proving how indispensable the aeromedical service is across the state. “These are not just numbers to us, they’re actually people,” she said. “It’s someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter, and they’re at their most vulnerable. That matters to us. They don’t have a choice in how they’re transported and it’s up to us to provide them the critical care that they need in the safest possible way. It’s not something that we take lightly here at LifeFlight.”
The majority of patients helped by LifeFlight Australia are treated or airlifted in missions which are tasked by Queensland Health. LifeFlight Australia was able to achieve these record results despite COVID-19 impacting staffing levels, aeromedical crew availability and operational capability more in 2022 than any other year of the pandemic, making last year the most challenging in the service’s proud history of providing vital rescue and retrieval services.
The RACQ LifeFlight Rescue and LifeFlight Surat Gas Aeromedical Service (SGAS) rotary wing fleet completed 2,177 critical missions, and was called into action to help Queenslanders in a myriad of emergencies, from search and rescues in bushland or out at sea, to cardiac incidents.
There were uniquely Australian rescue emergencies, with crews responding to a dingo attack, a crocodile attack and multiple outback rescues during wet season. The RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopters played a vital role in the aerial response to the devastating flood events of early 2022, which saw at least 50 people and many pets winched, rescued or airlifted by RACQ LifeFlight Rescue choppers. Numerous searches and welfare checks were performed from the air and many people, unable to travel by ambulance due to flooded roads, were transferred to hospitals.
While they were tasked to hundreds of inter-hospital transfers and critical missions, motor-vehicle incidents continue to be one of the most common call-outs for RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter aeromedical crews, across the state.
“It’s really disappointing to see, yet again, that motor-vehicle incidents account for so many of the missions,” said RACQ Spokesperson Lauren Cooney. “Last year, we had 299 people tragically killed on Queensland roads; it was our worst road toll in more than a decade. We know that overwhelmingly the fatal five account for so many of these fatal crashes: that speeding, drink and drug driving, distraction, fatigue, and not wearing a seatbelt. When you are behind the wheel you need to make sure that all your efforts are being put into getting to your destination safely.”
Top Five Mission Categories
- Cardiac/chest pain (303)
- Medical/illness (261)
- Motor-vehicle incidents (242)
- Respiratory (not COVID-19) (149)
- Neurological (118)
LifeFlight’s helicopter fleet accounted for 3,406 mission flying hours.
RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Air Ambulance jet crews, based in Brisbane and Townsville, also achieved a record, coming to the aid of 487 people, compared to the previous calendar year total of 441. “That figure actually means that we transported that many sick or injured patients to a hospital on our RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Air Ambulance jets,” said RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Air Ambulance Operations Manager Tyson Smith. “Most of those transfers did contain our Critical Care Doctor and Nurse, who responded to anything from stroke patients to newborn babies who needed a higher level of care, to come into a major city for that treatment.”
LifeFlight’s jet fleet consist of four Challenger 604 aircrafts that are custom-fitted with spectrum stretchers which allows two patients to travel in each aircraft, both domestically and internationally.