Record rescue year for LifeFlight Australia

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LifeFlight Australia
(PHOTO: LifeFlight Australia)

Airline associationsLifeFlight Australia has come to the aid of more than 81,000 people in the company’s last financial year. The 2022-23 Financial Year was another record-breaking 12 months for LifeFlight Australia, with the service’s rescue helicopters, Air Ambulance jets, Critical Care Doctors, Flight Nurses and Paramedics helping 7,349 people in need.

Crews on board the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue and LifeFlight Surat Gas Aeromedical Service (SGAS) rotary wing fleet helped 2,299 people and were called into action to assist Queenslanders in emergencies ranging from Search and Rescue operations in the outback, winch rescues offshore or in rugged terrain, to medical emergencies in remote locations.

The Brisbane aeromedical team was part of the multi-agency response to the tragic Sea World helicopter crash on the Gold Coast in January, first landing at the crash site then airlifting a primary school-aged child to hospital. The most common reason for rotary crews to be tasked directly to an emergency scene, was to attend serious motor vehicle incidents, involving two or four-wheeled vehicles, both off and on-road.

Motorist and road safety advocacy organisation RACQ has seen the number of fatalities and vehicle incidents increase, through-out their 30 years as naming right’s sponsor of LifeFlight’s community helicopter fleet. “It’s simple. When you’re behind the wheel, make a commitment to get back to basics. Take road safety seriously and do everything you can to get to your destination safely,” said RACQ spokesperson Lauren Cooney.

Queensland total – top five mission categories in 2022/23 Financial Year for RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter and LifeFlight SGAS helicopter fleet were:

  1. Cardiac/Chest Pain (311 missions)
  2. Motor vehicle incidents (277 missions)
  3. Medical Other/Illness (251 missions)
  4. Respiratory (not COVID-19) (128 missions)
  5. Neurological (115 missions)

LifeFlight’s helicopters spent a total of 4,110 in the air.

On every mission, patients receive the highest level of medical care from the moment a LifeFlight rescue chopper lands at a location, as well as in-flight, thanks to the service’s Critical Care Doctors, Flight Nurses and Flight Paramedics.

“They are able to go to the roadside scenes to stabilise patients and provide definitive care, like they would in a tertiary hospital or tertiary intensive care unit. Essentially our doctors, nurses and paramedics carry pretty much a mobile intensive care unit where they can do lots of procedures – whether that’s on the side of the road or within a small hospital, to stabilise patients and bring them to that higher level of care,” said Dr Jeff Hooper, LifeFlight Director of Clinical Services and Governance.

While there have been numerous dramatic rescue missions, much of LifeFlight’s aeromedical work involves Inter-Facility Transfers (IFT) – moving patients between medical facilities – which ensure all communities have equal access to the best possible healthcare, no matter where they are in the state.

“I think that the work we do for IFTs is really important to the people of Queensland – the majority of Queensland is a rural environment and people are a long way from really high levels of care,” said Dr Hooper. “Our feeling is that every Queenslander deserves that opportunity to be rapidly transferred to a world class standard of care.”

LifeFlight’s Brisbane Airport base is also home to RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Air Ambulance jets, with another jet base in Townsville ensuring long-distance fixed wing aeromedical coverage the length of Queensland and beyond.

In the last Financial Year, the combined efforts of the LifeFlight Air Ambulance crews, who are also tasked by Retrieval Services Queensland, saw 473 people helped: 189 by Brisbane-based crews and 284 by Townsville-based crews.

“Our fleet of Air Ambulance jets provide an additional capability for LifeFlight,”said Dr Hooper. “These tend to go on longer distance missions that would take even a couple of hours’ flying time to get to,” he said, “The majority of work is Inter-Hospital Transfers so coming from small hospitals and bringing those patients back to tertiary centres for an increased level of care, particularly intensive care type patients and transfers.”

Two LifeFlight Air Ambulance jets, one from each base, responded to a serious single vehicle crash on Norfolk Island in March. Three patients, each suffering multiple injuries were airlifted to Brisbane for hospital treatment. LifeFlight’s jet fleet consists of four Challenger 604 aircrafts which are custom fitted with spectrum stretchers which allows two patients to travel in each aircraft, both domestically and internationally.

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