Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

Rescue Service Puts Minister on Notice

Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

Rescue Service Puts Minister on Notice

Article excerpt

Byline: Bianca Clare bianca.clare@dailymercury.com.au

A STOUSH has erupted over the RACQ-CQ Rescue helicopter service's obligation to transport sick patients between Mackay and Townsville hospitals.

It comes after a 48-year-man was flown 730km, over four hours in two helicopters, from the Atherton Tableland to Mackay Base Hospital on Saturday because of a shortage of intensive care beds in North Queensland. He remains in a critical condition.

CQ Rescue chief executive officer Phillip Dowler said the incident highlighted the inefficiency of the state's air services for medical patients.

Mr Dowler said transporting the man, who had suspected swine flu, cost Queensland taxpayers more than $30,000.

"A flight in a fixed wing plane would have cost about $8000 and taken less time."

Mr Dowler and CQ Rescue chairman Dr Peter Bastable yesterday sent a letter to Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts stating the service would cease to transport patients for "inter-facility transfers" over a distance greater than 130 nautical miles (240km) from Mackay, as of midnight on August 3.

The letter said CQ Rescue understood it could not refuse to transport critical patients, however, inter-facility transfers would be charged at its commercial rate of $5830 per engine hour, ex GST.

"Primary responses (search missions, accidents) will not be affected by this decision."

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.

The fixed wing service was to complement the work of CQ Rescue and the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) and help free up beds at Mackay Base Hospital and its transfer hospitals, Townsville and Royal Brisbane and Women's. …

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