Doctors from LifeFlight, Australia, performed a record number of lifesaving missions in May, the organisation reports. The trauma specialists, who work onboard all Queensland-based emergency aeromedical retrieval services, performed 428 lifesaving missions in May across eight bases, spanning from Brisbane to Cairns. The tally was 27 more missions compared to May 2016, where LifeFlight doctors attended 401 cases. The record included an increasing number of trauma cases, with LifeFlight doctors attending to 138 serious injuries.
In another first, LifeFlight’s air ambulance plane, 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: “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.” He added: “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 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.”
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 onboard 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 onboard not only RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopters and Air Ambulance plane, but also rescue aircraft based at Cairns, Townsville, Toowoomba, Mackay, Rockhampton, Sunshine Coast, Roma and Brisbane.
At any hour of the day, there is an average of two LifeFlight doctors in the air around Queensland saving lives, said the service. The charity’s doctors treat and transport more than 10 patients every day, reaching almost 5,000 people per year.