RFDS pod project takes flight

Emerald Rotary president Michael McCosker, project lead Derek Mayne and Mayor Kerry Hayes with the RFDS patient transfer pod now on site at Emerald airport.

The RFDS patient transfer facility for Emerald is headed for lift-off after the arrival of the first component, a patient pod, on site this week.

The project gained a boost with $6 million awarded to the Central HIghlands council under the State Government’s Regional Community Infrastructure Fund for strengthening works to the apron to facilitate the arrival of King Air 360 turboprop aircraft once operational.

Former RFDS Queensland chairman Russell Postle has backed the project from its inception by the Rotary Club of Emerald and his thoughts are on the benefits to the around 500 patients a year flown out of Emerald for medical treatment.

“We’ve had a few dry gullies we’ve walked up and down as we’ve worked through what is right for the long-term for both the RFDS and the Emerald airport, but at all times there has been an enormous determination to make it happen,” Mr Postle said.

“From an RFDS point of view, it’s been a really exciting project because this has been a community-led campaign.

“The Emerald Rotary working with the council has driven this project and they weren’t daunted by it and that’s really impressive.

“In any one year, we get almost 500 people airlifted out of Emerald, so the fact that the aircraft can be undercover and have a degree of privacy as well, out of the sun, out of the rain.

“I know everyone celebrates rain there, but is will also mean that for the flight crew, our pilots and nurses are equally as excited because they will come into Emerald 24-7 and that might be at 1am.”

Mr Postle said RFDS staff would now have access to bathroom facilities and basic comforts already also on offer to the patients.

With the project gaining momentum, Mr Postle said the patient transfer pod would be contained within a purpose-built hangar with a driveway entrance for ambulance officers to enable undercover unloading and loading of the patient.

The RFDS King Air 360s which would service Emerald airport are customised to offer an airborne aeromedical intensive care unit

“The RFDS has invested heavily to get aircraft that are the next generation being the King Air 360 as they’re an aircraft that has got the capacity for two stretchers and they’re almost jet speed,” Mr Postle said.

“There’s a very high level of equipment in them, they are a mobile intensive care unit rather than an ambulance, so it does offer that high level of transfer opportunity.

Mr Postle commended the Rotary sub-committee of project lead Derek Mayne, Emerald Rotary president MIchael McCosker and Mayor Kerry Hayes on the achievements to progress the patient transfer facility so rapidly, and for the RCIF funding to be secured.

“This is one of the most satisfying projects that I have been involved with in my time as mayor,” Cr Hayes said.

“The RFDS has been increasing medical and dental support services to the Central Highlands region and identified the need for improved patient transfer facilities at the airport.

“Having secured funding for the pod, subsequent assessment at the airport indicated that the option of incorporating a hangar would provide additional benefits.

“That started an incredible partnership involving the RFDS, the council and Rotary Emerald.”

Cr Hayes said preliminary work for the location of the pod had begun and the progression to the hangar and apron works would follow when funding contracts were in place.

“The most amazing part of this has been the generosity of our community and I am proud of the way Central Highlanders got behind this,” he said.

“Regional people know and value the RFDS service and some of the donations are astonishing.

“It’s a wonderful story and there is going to be an opportunity to acknowledge those contributions later.

“There is no doubt that the quality of our airport operations and our location made it easy for the RFDS to upgrade here.

“It is a strategic site for medical recovery and the Central Highlands is now another proud partner to Australia’s iconic medical service.”