A team of critical care doctors has started work aboard the Bundaberg-based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter.
The five highly qualified doctors are working alongside experienced aviators and flight paramedics.
“We have a great bunch of paramedics who are actually quite experienced, they’ve been running this service for a number of years. Having the doctors on board will just enhance what they already offer to the community,” says newly appointed LifeFlight Bundaberg clinical lead Dr Chris McMullen.
“For 24 years the Queensland Ambulance Service flight paramedics have provided exemplary service working on the rescue helicopter out of Bundaberg,” says LifeFlight chief medical officer Dr Allan MacKillop.
“They have a high level of skills and it’s going to be a pleasure for the organisation to supplement those skills, with the skills of a critical care doctor.”
It was members of the local community, who first identified a growing need in the region, for doctors to be part of the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue aeromedical team.
Local philanthropists Ron and Fay Simpson are donating $740,000 through The Simpson Foundation. ”
We could see the need for that critical care doctor here in our region; after all, it’s only a couple of regions that don’t have it and we thought well we will do what we can to make it happen,” says Mr Simpson.
The family was inspired by their own first-hand experiences.
“Our grand-daughter had severe eye trauma from a motor mower accident from a stone thrown into her eye and she was airlifted to Brisbane. Also we had a premature grandson born at 27 weeks who needed to be airlifted quickly to Brisbane,” Mr Simpson says.
The Simpsons’ initial donation guaranteed phase one of the project, with doctors currently on duty three days a week.
While the doctors have vast medical experience and have worked on aircraft in the past, all were required to undergo specialised RACQ LifeFlight Rescue training, including lessons on winching and working outside a hospital environment.
“We’re going to insert these doctors and paramedics into the bush or remote areas, so they can perform their medical work on patients in restricted areas. They do all their magic down there and then we can recover them back up to the aircraft. The doctor typically will accompany the patient on the way back up on the stretcher so we need to give them all the skill set, to make sure they’re safe and equipped to do that job,” says RACQ LifeFlight Rescue checking and training officer Nathan Minett.
Dr Peter Henderson was first doctor out of the blocks with a mission to transfer an elderly man to Bundaberg Hospital after he suffered a suspected head injury when he fell from a horse while mustering cattle.
Born and bred in Bundaberg, Dr Chris McMullen recently completed his first aeromedical tasking in his home territory treating and transferring a 7 month old child who was suffering breathing difficulties.
He has previously been part of aeromedical crews on aircraft in other regions and is currently working as an emergency specialist at Bundaberg Hospital.
“It’s something that the community really needs. Up until this point we didn’t have doctors assisting our paramedics between Rocky and the Sunshine Coast so it’s a great opportunity to be a part of it and try bring some of those intensive care type therapies to the roadside,” he says.
Fundraising efforts are continuing. Phase Two will see doctors working seven days a week. The ultimate goal is to secure enough funding to have critical care doctors on board the chopper 24/7, every day of the year.