Aircrewman Brent Malden and the RACQ LifeFlight rescue helicopter at Bundaberg Airport last year.
Aircrewman Brent Malden and the RACQ LifeFlight rescue helicopter at Bundaberg Airport last year.

LifeFlight choppers remain ready for action during pandemic

RACQ LifeFlight helicopters remain ready for action despite the nation dropping back a gear amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In the past three weeks alone, the RACQ LifeFlight fleet has completed more than 100 critical missions.

The Bundaberg-based helicopter flew 15 of these lifesaving missions during this time frame, including a mission during which the crew located a man who had been missing in bushland near Gin Gin for seven hours in late March.

Director of aeromedical services Dave Donaldson said the work the organisation needed to complete had continued despite the outbreak of COVID-19.

"People still continue, unfortunately, to have accidents, to become ill, or need to be transported to hospitals where they can receive a higher level of care and we need to remain ready to do that for the community," Mr Donaldson said.

"The service that we provide, through the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopters, is world-class, it's absolutely second-to-none and it comes at a cost of about $12,500, for every mission we fly, but that's at no cost to the patients."

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, RACQ LifeFlight Rescue quickly took steps to ensure the safety of patients, aeromedical crews and the wider community.

As a result, Regional Development Manager Jodi Durkin said the LifeFlight Foundation has, sadly, had to indefinitely postpone or cancel events which contribute significantly to the need to cover up to 30 per cent of the cost of running the community rescue helicopter fleet.

In the Wide Bay region, that means the Community Open Day at the newly-operational Bundaberg base, couldn't go ahead.

"Events like these remind the community how important RACQ LifeFlight Rescue is - and often leads to generous donations," Ms Durkin said.

She said social distancing and cancellations had also hit hard, at a grassroots level.

"In our smaller communities, it really affects our community fundraising. A lot of the local community groups band together and hold fundraising events and this simply can't happen now," she said.

The rescue choppers have also been involved in the transportation of medical crews, to suspected COVID-19 patients, in regional Queensland.

The organisation has recently expanded its long-running service agreement with Queensland Health, to ensure RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Air Ambulance jets are on standby for regional areas, to transport COVID-19 and other patients, to a higher level of care.

"In response to the COVID-19 crisis, we're asking the community to donate and help off-set the cost of buying more specialised medical equipment," Ms Durkin said.

"As we expand our services in response to COVID-19, your support is needed now, more than ever."

To donate, visit https://lifeflight.giveeasy.org



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