Tasmania’s first integrated emergency helicopter service takes off

Michael Ferguson,Minister for Health

Tasmania’s first integrated medical and search and rescue helicopter service is now in operation – with faster response times for emergency situations forecast to save Tasmanian lives.

We’ve already doubled the state’s contracted helicopter capacity from 1 to 2 on standby. Now we’re literally taking this lifesaving service to the next level.

The Hodgman Liberal Government is investing an additional $10 million a year to fund the improved service, which rapidly deploys a ready-to-go specialist medical team to emergencies 24 hours a day.

We are employing dedicated flight paramedics and specialist retrieval doctors as part of this life-saving service, which will also include dedicated resources based at Hobart Airport. This allows quicker response times and ensures patients receive high-acuity care from the moment the helicopter lands, rather than having to wait until they arrive at hospital.

Having dedicated flight paramedics will also mean an ambulance crew will no longer be taken off the road when the emergency helicopter is called out, because they are on site with the helicopter, ready-to-go.

This is all part of the Government’s $125 million package to boost ambulance services, including: recruiting 42 new rural and regional paramedics, 6 more State Operations Centre staff, new ambulance stations and new equipment to continue reducing response times in Tasmania.

This aeromedical retrieval service will dramatically improve response times, with an expected median activation time of 10 minutes for high priority search and rescue, and for medical responses, an expected improvement of 42 minutes compared to the current service. Saving those 42 minutes will save lives.

Staffing for the service will include:

  • 14 additional full-time paramedics
  • 5.5 full-time equivalent specialist retrieval doctors dedicated to the service
  • 5 FTE flight crew members
  • 5.7 FTE nurses
  • 4.5 FTE paediatric registrar doctors

Further, patients needing critical care will soon have access to a dedicated helipad at The Royal Hobart Hospital’s new K-Block and at the Mersey Community Hospital in the North-West of Tasmania. This will mean all four hospitals will be connected with helipads, which will significantly reduce transport times and save lives.

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