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CareFlight jets fly marathon missions

CareFlight’s air ambulance fleet has flown nearly 16,000 kilometres in the past 24 hours on lifesaving missions across the Asia Pacific.

Two seriously ill female patients, both suffering pneumonia and associated complications, had to be airlifted from Apia in Samoa and Suva in Fiji.

“The logistical operation for the Suva mission began at 2pm on Monday,” CareFlight Chief Medical Officer Dr Allan MacKillop said.

“That Brisbane based crew has flown to Suva, retrieved the patient with the help of the local helicopter rescue service, refuelled in Noumea in New Caledonia and then flown onto Brisbane.

“In total the CareFlight air ambulance team flew eight hours and 6,378 kilometres.”

The patient was treated prior to take-off, and on board, by a CareFlight Critical Care Doctor and Intensive Care Flight Nurse.

As the Brisbane crew was airborne, so too was the Townsville based crew, heading to Apia in Samoa.

“Receiving international clearances, logging flight plans and organising the crews logistically is a massive operation conducted out of CareFlight’s own co-ordination centre known as C3,” CareFlight Tasking and Logistics Manager Peter Elliott said.

That crew flew from Townsville to Apia at 9.30 yesterday morning.

After overnighting in Apia, strong headwinds saw the team refuel in Tonga, before landing in Auckland with the critically ill patient today, flying 9,318 kilometres and to the crew’s 15 hour limit.

“In the last 12 months we’ve flown 186 jet missions, 99 of these were to overseas destinations,” Peter Elliott said.

“They included Honiara and Port Moresby internationally, but also Norfolk Island, Darwin, Cairns and Cunnamulla.

“On average we treat and transfer more than 15 patients a month, or four people in need of lifesaving care every week.

The CareFlight air ambulances have been flying for 11 years and in that time have treated and transferred nearly 1,400 patients.

“Many of these people were on holiday, became ill and had to call on us through their travel insurer to get home,” Dr Allan MacKillop said.

“It pays to have travel insurance.

“Without it you can find yourself seriously ill and stranded in a foreign country with no way of getting home. “