Flying doctor cutbacks

EMERGENCY care flights by the Royal Flying Doctor Services (RFDS) in Bundaberg are set to be reduced by more than 50%.

The Bundaberg service is set to move from a seven-day, around-the-clock service to 12-hour shifts five days a week, after a new contract for inter-hospital transfers with Queensland Health is signed.

The NewsMail obtained a copy of an email detailing the changes, which was sent to staff at the Bundaberg base by RFDS chief executive Nino Di Marco on Friday last week.

"The new contract will provide a level of long-term certainty for the RFDS that will enable us to plan effectively and thus make efficient and effective use of our resources," the email reads.

The change also means an additional 12-hour, seven-day-a-week shift will be worked from the Brisbane RFDS base, which also requires an aircraft.

The email says the shift changes would not come into effect until December 31 next year.

"The long lead-in time (up to 12 months) that was specifically negotiated by us, for the new arrangements, means that it is possible for the RFDS to implement a fully developed transition plan, which will be developed, as far as possible, with our employees at Bundaberg Base," it says.

The contract is expected to be signed this week.

More than 1830 patients were flown by the Bundaberg RFDS last year, averaging about six patients a day.

The NewsMail understands four nurses and three pilots will have to relocate or accept redundancies.

Member for Bundaberg Jack Dempsey said he was also concerned about the pressure the cut in services would put on the AGL Action Rescue Helicopter.

"If it is going to be axed by that much, it means there are worries about staff jobs," he said.

"It's the people on George St making the decisions, not the people who are being affected," Mr Dempsey said.

Queensland Health chief medical officer Jeannette Young insisted patients would continue to have access to RFDS transfers around the clock, but did not explain how.

"Anyone in Bundaberg who needs an emergency transfer will get one, no matter what time of the day or night it is required," she said.

The NewsMail contacted the Flying Doctors' Brisbane office, but was told the service had "no comment".

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