RACQ LifeFlight: Saving Lives at the Face of COVID-19

TracPlus spoke with Queensland-based Air Rescue service, RACQ LifeFlight, on how they have shifted their business procedures to keep their community and staff safe amid COVID-19.

RACQ LifeFlight is a world leader in aeromedical retrieval services. With over 40 years of experience and bases across the wider Queensland region, their aeromedical service offers the community a lifeline in emergencies.

In the face of a global pandemic, the LifeFight crew are more vital than ever, bringing lifesaving medical treatment to seriously ill and injured patients around Australia — especially those in more remote locations.

Since the threat of COVID-19 first became known worldwide, the team has been paying close attention to the unfolding situation to ensure their pilots, crewmen, critical-care doctors and flight nurses would be rescue ready when the time came to start helping victims in Australia. 

“We’ve always had highly developed infectious disease procedures in place, so we were able to quickly start adapting and adding to these for coronavirus. These ensure the utmost safety for our crews, patients and the broader public," RACQ LifeFlight Coordination Centre Director Brian Guthrie said.

With the ever-evolving nature of this pandemic, the RACQ LifeFlight procedures have been constantly reviewed and updated as necessary.

“Our senior medical staff are sharing information with other organisations and learning from the experiences of retrieval services in Australia and internationally.”

With thorough research and collaboration with other organisations, RACQ LifeFlight has swiftly adopted a series of changes right across the organisation, based on the latest clinical knowledge, to ensure the best outcomes for patients and to keep our crews and support staff as safe as possible.  

Doctors and nurses are required to wear full PPE when necessary, including masks, a face shield or goggles for eye protection, gloves and long-sleeved, fluid-resistant, disposable suits. 

Additionally, their aeromedical crews on the frontline are protected by the updated Standard Operating Procedures. 

“These include requirements for doctors and nurses to wear masks, eye protection, gloves and suits, as well as to undertake appropriate decontamination measures, after they are in contact with suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients.”

Barrier curtains have also been installed in the rescue helicopters, to separate the cockpit from the cabin, further protecting the aviation crew members. 

Retrieval crews’ health is carefully monitored after a suspected or confirmed coronavirus airlift, with the standard self-isolation measures put in place if necessary. 

“The safety and wellbeing of the crews at bases and the operations team in head office, has been a top priority, with measures taken early on to isolate them as much as possible from other staff, to minimise risk of COVID-19 transmission,” Mr Guthrie said. 

LifeFlight’s support teams, usually located at offices and bases, have also adapted to many changes. Some started work from home regimes well before the government recommended the move. Now, all staff who don’t need to be in the offices are working from home.

Those who have to work in the office are following strict social distancing rules and ensuring surfaces are regularly disinfected.

“A dedicated COVID-19 assistance desk has been set up in the operations centre, to provide specialised coronavirus support to the business and staff.”

LifeFlight’s Operations Centre, known as C3, is always at the heart and soul of everything LifeFlight do and is continuing its crucial work, around the clock, as this pandemic unfolds. 

“It’s as important as ever that C3 can monitor where our aircraft are at all times – and TracPlus is an important tool in doing this efficiently and accurately. It makes it easy for the operations staff to stay on top of where the aeromedical crews are at a glance, while they also manage the many new challenges brought about by COVID-19.”

Some senior staff, with specialised and updated COVID-19 information, are now regularly in the centre, to provide support. Meanwhile, various operations usually carried out in C3 have been moved to another isolated workplace.

COVID-19 is set to create additional work for the crew, however, their service continues to support Queensland in other areas of the health sector too.

“The RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopters are still busy with their usual, non-coronavirus, missions including car crashes and inter-facility transfers, as tasked by Queensland Health,” LifeFlight Coordination Centre Director Brian Guthrie said.

As always, their crews remain rescue ready, continuing to fly missions and save local lives. 

“People still continue, unfortunately, to have accidents, to become ill, or need to be transported to hospitals where they can receive a higher level of care and we need to remain ready to do that for the community.”

So far, their crews have been seeing the usual fluctuations in mission types, but it’s too early to tell if the government’s isolation rules are impacting the trend.

Recommended Articles

LifeFlight and TracPlus

Operations Manager, Brian Guthrie, shares why the team at RACQ LifeFlight rely on TracPlus for monitoring and deploying their fleet and staff efficiently and accurately.

TracPlus for Air Rescue