When the Rio Tinto Life Flight jet was launched last year, we said it was one of the most significant improvements in services to sick and injured people in remote areas since the Flying Doctor began in 1928.
One year on, the first anniversary of the Rio Tinto Life Flight jet showed just what a difference the service has made to those living in the far reaches of Western Australia.
Based in Perth, the jet service has transported 208 patients in its first year, with 112 coming from the Kimberley region and 52 from the Pilbara.
One of its first patients was Derby resident Sarah-Jane Anderson, who was struck by a drunk driver while standing outside the local shops on the morning of her 25th birthday. Seriously injured, she needed to get to Perth – fast.
Her mum, Alison, told of her relief when hearing the Rio Tinto Life Flight jet would transfer Sarah-Jane to Perth in just 2.5 hours – compared to what would have been a five hour flight using the RFDS standard fleet.
Sarah-Jane and Alison joined the first anniversary celebrations on October 17 to put a human face to the benefits of the service to people in rural and remote areas.
The jet is twice as fast as the regular RFDS fleet and can fit up to four patients at one time. But more than that, it has achieved new milestones in aeromedical care in its first year alone.
Two patients on life support were recently transported on one flight from Broome to Perth, each with their own critical care team. The Rio Tinto Life Flight jet is the only aircraft in Australia configured to achieve this.
The jet also made possible the first long distance, interstate transfer of a premature baby by the RFDS in WA, transporting the baby to Brisbane for life saving heart surgery.
More than just another resource, the Rio Tinto Life Flight jet has broken important ground in aeromedical services in Australia.
The purchase of the jet was made possible by a $5 million partnership with Rio Tinto. The jet’s medical fit out and operations are also supported by funding from the RFDS Victorian Section, Flying 1000 and Maroomba Airlines. The State Government’s Royalties for Regions program has also underwritten its operating costs up to a value of $1 million per year for three years.
For more on Sarah-Jane’s story and the anniversary celebrations, go here