LifeFlight doctors perform record number of lifesaving missions

The highly-skilled trauma specialists – who work on board all Queensland-based emergency aeromedical retrieval services – performed 428 lifesaving missions last month across eight bases, spanning from Brisbane to Cairns. That was 27 more missions compared to May last year, where LifeFlight doctors attended to 401 cases.

Last month’s record included an increasing number of trauma cases, with LifeFlight doctors attending to 138 serious injuries in May.

A number of records fell last month within LifeFlight. LifeFlight’s Air Ambulance, sponsored by RACQ, flew an all-time record of 238 hours in May, performing lifesaving missions across the country and overseas. The RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopters also had their busiest month this financial year and their second busiest on record, with 440 flight hours.

LifeFlight Retrieval Medicine’s Director of Clinical Services and Governance Dr Mark Edwards said LifeFlight doctors ensured world class medical care was available to all Queenslanders – and visitors to Queensland – anyone, anywhere, anytime.

“The missions performed last month are a mix of primary missions, which usually involve aircraft landing at the scene of an incident and inter-hospital transfers – where a patient is airlifted from one facility to another,” said Dr Edwards.

“Our doctors never know what they’re going to face, but they’re trained for every type of health scenario whether that’s a motor vehicle accident and keeping a patient stable while emergency services extract them from the vehicle; being winched down to an injured bushwalker in a remote location; or a farmer who’s suffered a traumatic injury on their property.

“Out in the field and in the aircraft, our doctors don’t have a whole hospital worth of equipment so it can be really challenging.”

The 138 trauma cases which LifeFlight doctors attended to last month included a number of life-and-death situations.  LifeFlight Clinical Lead, Dr Jeff Hooper, was on the Toowoomba-based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter when they were recently tasked to airlift a man involved in a serious car accident from Stanthorpe Hospital.

 “This patient was in Stanthorpe Hospital which is a reasonably large town with good doctors but the issue is they need tertiary level trauma care. It’s about an hour flight and the patient was touch-and-go,” said Dr Hooper.

The man in his 70’s had been “t-boned” in a ute and had lost a lot of blood.

“He’d lost at least half of his blood and needed a transfusion. He had some transfused in Stanthorpe, then we had our four units of blood that we carry on board the aircraft, but he needed more and we were fortunate enough to the have some units transported to the aircraft by the police,” Dr Hooper said.

“He ended up in total getting about 12 units of blood. If he was in Brisbane in a big hospital he would have been straight into the operating theatre within half an hour. Whereas that just isn’t really an option when you’re in these small, regional areas.”

LifeFlight Retrieval Medicine recruits and trains around 130 doctors every year. LifeFlight doctors are on board not only RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopters and Air Ambulance, but also rescue aircraft based at Cairns, Townsville, Toowoomba, Mackay, Rockhampton, Sunshine Coast, Roma and Brisbane.

“You bring the skills of a tertiary hospital to the patient. Things such as managing his chest injury and managing his blood transfusion and monitoring his condition and bringing things such as life-support. But you’re also reducing the transport time. Our helicopters become one of the treatment machines to keep patients alive and get them quickly to hospital care,” said Dr Hooper.

Chief Operating Officer Brian Guthrie said the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter service continued to be in high demand throughout Queensland because it was often the best option for the patient.

“Given the distance from hospitals and the remote nature of many places in Queensland, sending a helicopter in most cases provides the best outcome for the patient in their greatest hour of need,” said Mr Guthrie.

At any hour of the day, there is an average of two LifeFlight Doctors in the air around Queensland saving lives. LifeFlight doctors treat and transport more than 10 patients every day, reaching almost 5000 people per year.

“LifeFlight is proud that our community helicopters have been so busy and been able to respond to so many missions last month because we know that every time we’re in the air we’re saving a life and giving someone a second chance,” said Mr Guthrie.

LifeFlight is a community-based charity that relies on donations from the public and community support.

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