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Irish doctor flies CareFlight into the Emerald Isle

Sunshine Coast-based CareFlight Critical Care Doctor Matthew Mulkeen is set to star in a new TV documentary series to be shown in his homeland of Ireland.

An Irish television crew has been shadowing the 37-year-old father of one, documenting his high-flying life as a RACQ CareFlight Rescue helicopter doctor and Irishman living in Australia.

Last week Dr Mulkeen treated his 100th CareFlight patient, a special achievement given he only arrived in Australia 10 months ago with wife Marijana and six year old daughter Alexandra.

“Working for CareFlight has been something I have wanted to do for a very long time. The reason I came to Australia is to work for CareFlight and the bonus is the lifestyle,” said Dr Mulkeen, who grew up on a farm in County Mayo, in west Ireland, and studied medicine in Dublin .

Over two days an Irish documentary crew has had unique access to Matthew at CareFlight's operational hangar and the rescue missions he attends in the Sunshine Coast based RACQ CareFlight Rescue helicopter.

Dr Mulkeen also works across other community helicopter bases in Toowoomba and Mackay.

GoPro cameras on board the Maroochydore-based BK 117 helicopter have captured him in action during rescue missions, with a crew on the ground recording his home life at Peregian Springs on the Sunshine Coast. The documentary will go to air in the United Kingdom later this year.

Dr Mulkeen said working as a rescue helicopter doctor had been on his bucket list for some time, as was moving to the Sunshine Coast.

His original 12-month contract with CareFlight was due to expire in August. But he was enjoying the job so much – including physical challenges like being winched out of a chopper to attend to patients – that he’s extended for another six months until February 2017. 

“When you apply for the job at CareFlight you let them know where you would like to work and doctor friends had told me about the Sunshine Coast,” he said.

“I’m a red-headed Irish person so the sun isn’t one of my favourite things. It’s more about the interesting work, than going to the beach or surfing.

“The Sunshine Coast is a great location for work with a good mix of rescue missions and inter-hospital transfers. At CareFlight you get to do a variety of medicine and really help people.”

It’s the second time the RACQ CareFlight Sunshine Coast operation has been featured in an international TV documentary. Last year a French film crew spent several weeks filming missions as part of a TV series called “Medecines d’Ailleurs (“Medicine from around the world”) which aired in France in March this year.

General Manager of CareFlight Retrieval Medicine Peter Pearce said doctors from overseas were an important part of the CareFlight medical team.

“Working for CareFlight is a great opportunity for overseas doctors and they’re an important part of our medical recruitment. The work on board a rescue helicopter is challenging and there is plenty to learn,” Mr Pearce said.

“It’s an opportunity to make friends and build professional relationships that last a lifetime.”

The soon-to-be documentary star couldn’t agree more. Dr Mulkeen said he would encourage other doctors to pack up their stethoscopes and head Down Under.

“The experience gained with CareFlight can be brought back to their own countries and also back to their usual work place. Working as a helicopter doctor is a very different working experience from hospital medicine,” he said.

“Living in other countries is always an opportunity. The lifestyle in Queensland isn't bad either I admit!”