Constituency statement – LifeFlight 25 years

Tuesday, 7 March 2023

Mr PITT: Twenty-five years—what an anniversary. It’s not so great if you’re a horse. And, for others, it’s a long time if you’re married. Twenty-five years for LifeFlight Bundaberg is an incredible milestone. It’s an organisation has literally saved the lives of thousands of people in our region. There have been 25 years of critical aeromedical care, saving lives in the Wide Bay-Burnett region. Would you believe that they cover 34 different locations in Queensland, including Hervey Bay, Kingaroy, Gladstone, Barcaldine and beyond?

The service started from very humble beginnings. They operated out of a donga, with just a pilot and a paramedic. Would you believe that they had to pull out the front seat to get access for the stretcher. If we fast-forward to today, we see that they have a wonderful joint operating facility with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. They have pilots, crewmen, critical care paramedics and a critical care doctor. This is thanks to support from the community and, of course, the previous coalition government. Cardiac issues, serious injuries, motor vehicle accidents, boating accidents, transfer of expectant mothers, infants with specialised care, snakebites and offshore rescues—they do it all.

The joint facility received $3 million from the coalition government under Building Better Regions. It was opened in 2020. In the past 10 years alone—and these are some critical numbers—the Bundaberg based RACQ LifeFlight rescue helicopter crew performed 2,724 critical missions. More than 2,300 people who needed help received help at their time of absolute need. Every person in Queensland should have equal access to that free emergency aeromedical care. That’s why funding of these critical services is just so important. In the 2011 and 2013 floods they winched people off the roofs of their homes.

Let’s look at some of the team. Rescue pilot Peter Marris started on the service 25 years ago and is still there. QAS flight paramedic Kevin Charteris has been on the Bundaberg chopper since the service began. John Kennedy, someone who I’m pleased to call a friend of mine, just retired after more than 20 years service—what an incredible contribution. I want to give a shout-out to Pat Denham, the former QAS officer in charge.

Dale Rethamel, the board and the local community worked hard to get a doctor on board the chopper, which will reinforce the services that are provided. Just last month the critical care doctor rotation was bolstered from three day shifts a week to seven to absolutely enhance what is already an outstanding aeromedical care service provided throughout the region. They plan to expand that doctor roster to 24/7 in the future. I want to congratulate the team, those hardworking individuals who get out in some very difficult circumstances to provide services to regional Queenslanders at their time of desperation.

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