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Iconic aeromedical organisations collaborate for better services to north west Queensland

Residents and visitors in north west Queensland will receive even better lifesaving aeromedical services through a closer collaboration between two iconic services – the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) and RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter service.

The establishment of a new Aeromedical Joint Operations Oversight Committee for the Mount Isa-based services will have the benefit of a more coordinated use of available aeromedical assets to ensure optimum patient outcomes by using the most appropriate aircraft depending on the medical emergency.

The committee, which held its first meeting in Mount Isa today, is chaired by former Mount Isa Mayor Tony McGrady.

LifeFlight CEO Ashley van de Velde welcomed the chance to further strengthen the collaboration with RFDS and the local emergency services.

“Since LifeFlight merged with the Mount Isa based NQ Rescue helicopter service in July last year, we have been slowly working towards closer co-operation with the RFDS and a service model that puts the patient needs first,” said Mr van de Velde.

“The co-location of our assets to the RFDS hangar was the first step and we will work next on an improved joint tasking model for our respective local aeromedical services.

“Our approach is to work collectively and cooperatively to provide operationally efficient and cost effective lifesaving aeromedical services to the communities we serve.

“There will be many occasions when a rescue helicopter is the more appropriate aircraft to deploy and we envisage there will also be occasions when a combined response with an RFDS aircraft will lead to a better patient outcome.”

In welcoming the forging of closer ties with LifeFlight, RFDS (Queensland Section) CEO, Nino Di Marco, said:

“Our association and commitment to work together with LifeFlight will provide the community of north west Queensland with enhanced services, with the patient’s needs and location determining whether a rotary wing or a fixed wing response is required.  

“The RFDS is committed to this initiative believing it will help response times and ultimately assist the Flying Doctor to carry on its mantle of safety to the people of this remote region, a commitment unbroken since the inception of our health service back in 1928, when we took our first aeromedical flight  from Cloncurry to Julia Creek”.

Mr McGrady said he had begun meeting with RFDS and LifeFlight to discuss joint operations before he retired as Mayor of Mount Isa last year.

“I had formed a view that having an integrated operation with both fixed wing and rotary operations was an essential service that the people of our vast region deserved,” Mr McGrady said. 

“This is a great outcome for the region and deserves our support to ensure the long term viability and suitability of the region’s aeromedical services.

“I agreed to chair the Aeromedical Joint Operations Oversight Committee because the success of this initiative will ensure the people of our region can access the very best aeromedical care when needed.”

The committee briefed all members on the reasons for its establishment and received presentations from Jaya Ganasan, General Manager Integrated Operations, RFDSQ; and Brian Guthrie, Chief Operating Officer, LifeFlight.

Other representatives of the committee are: Mayor Jane McNamara, Flinders Regional Council; Mayor John Wharton, Richmond Regional Council; Mayor Greg Campbell, Cloncurry Shire; Deputy Mayor Phil Barwick, Mount Isa City Council; Jessika Brind, Superintendent, Queensland Ambulance Service; Kevin Guteridge, Superintendent, Queensland Police Service; Jaya Ganasan, General Manager Integrated Operations, RFDS (Queensland Section); Brian Guthrie, Chief Operations Officer, LifeFlight; Mike Westerman, Chief Operating Officer, Glencore’s Copper Assets North Queensland.

During the meeting members agreed to appoint the current sitting state member as Patron of the committee which will stay with the role regardless of who is appointed in the future. Mr Robbie Katter MP is the current sitting state member.