Twenty-five new RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Critical Care Doctors are jumping on board Queensland’s rescue choppers and jets, ready to bring advanced medical care to sick or injured patients, often in some of the state’s most challenging locations. The selected doctors have completed an intensive training week at the LifeFlight Training Academy, to prepare them for the many challenges of retrieval medicine.
The course is run by some of LifeFlight’s most experienced doctors, aircrew officers and trainers, who pass on their knowledge gained in the field, to ensure the recruits hit the ground running.
“These doctors are here working for us because they are very experienced doctors, they’re top of their field sort of people, but they’re here doing something they haven’t done before,” RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Chief Aircrew Officer Simon Gray said.
The opportunity to save lives in the air and attend emergency scenes attracts doctors from around the world, including Richard Thomas, who has come from the United Kingdom, for the aeromedical adventure. “I’ve never worked in the air before so it presents a whole new range of challenges to both practicing medicine as well as the helicopter environment side of things too, so I’m looking forward to learning about that,” Thomas said.
The new intake of retrieval registrars also includes doctors from Norway, the United States and New Zealand. One of the most important – and exciting – parts of training, is learning how to be winched from a chopper.
“We’re introducing them to one of the methods that we can get them to a patient because at the end of the day, that’s fundamentally our main purpose – to get advanced medical care to a patient,” Gray said.
The retrieval registrars were also strapped into a metal helicopter simulator and dunked underwater, in Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET). Back on land, the doctors were put through their paces in a series of simulated emergency scenes they could come across while on the job, at the Queensland Combined Emergency Services Academy at Whyte Island. They were faced with some of the confronting realities of pre-hospital care, in scenarios including a wild house party where a child had ingested drugs, a worker injured in a confined space on a ship and a fatal car crash.
“There’s some challenges you get out in the field that you just don’t get in the hospital setting and you’ve really got to adapt, you’ve got such a tight team to work with, so it’s going to be great working with the aircrew, the pilots, the paramedics, both in the air and on the ground,” another of the new recruits, Steve McElroy said.
The 25 retrieval registrars will take to the air from bases across Queensland – including on aircraft operated by RACQ LifeFlight Rescue and Queensland Government Air (QGAir). The majority of the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Critical Care Doctors’ work is performed on behalf of Queensland Health, under a 10-year service agreement.
QGAir has a fleet of five AW139 helicopters operating from bases in Cairns, Townsville and Brisbane, performing life-saving tasks and responding to emergencies throughout Queensland.