Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

{NO ICU BED: MAN HAS TO FLY 730kms} {Forced to Fly to ICU Bed}

Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

{NO ICU BED: MAN HAS TO FLY 730kms} {Forced to Fly to ICU Bed}

Article excerpt

Byline: Bianca Clare

A CRITICALLY ill man with suspected swine flu was forced to fly more than 730kms at the weekend from the Atherton Tableland to Mackay Base Hospital, via Cairns and Townsville, because there were no intensive care unit (ICU) beds available in North Queensland.

The mammoth trip on Saturday cost the Mackay-based RACQ-CQ Rescue helicopter service $20,000 and the Cairns-based EMQ helicopter service around $15,000.

The 48-year-old man was picked up from the Atherton Tableland by the EMQ helicopter but the nearest high care hospital, which was in Cairns, was unable to admit him because of bed shortages.

At the time there was one probable and five confirmed swine flu cases in Cairns Base Hospital ICU.

The man was then directed to Townsville Hospital but it was also full, with one probable and two confirmed cases of swine flu in ICU.

At 3pm the CQ Rescue helicopter was tasked to Townsville to pick up the man, who had to be ventilated, and did not arrive back at Mackay Base Hospital until 7.30pm.

The ICU resources at Mackay Base hospital were stretched further later that night when a man was admitted in a critical condition with chest, head, spinal and leg injuries after being involved in a car accident on the corner of Milton and Evans streets around 11.20pm.

The $35,000 trip comes after the Mackay-based fixed wing aeromedical ambulance was grounded on Friday because Queensland Health failed to give the service permission to use the plane for inter-hospital transfers, which could have saved CQ Rescue hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

CQ Rescue chief executive officer Phillip Dowler said this latest incident showed the total inefficiency of the current Queensland aeromedical network.

"A seriously ill man had to be flown by two rescue helicopters for over four hours, when a fixed wing plane would have done the task in little over an hour," he said.

"The cost to Queensland taxpayers for this transport would be in excess of $30,000, whereas a fixed wing plane would cost around $8000. …

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