Doctors go to extremes to hone skills for rescues

A CREW of doctors has reached new heights and plumbed new depths to improve the survival rates of Gladstone region workers needing aerial transfers to hospital.

The 14 new CareFlight recruits will serve time in Gladstone, Mackay and Rockhampton on a seven-day rotation over the coming six months.

The first doctor arrived in Gladstone on Monday after successfully completing a myriad of air, water and ground-based challenges.

The doctors, who until now have honed their skills in emergency departments, last week learnt the ups and downs of being winched from a rescue helicopter and escaping from an aircraft under water.

The training at Brisbane's Archerfield Airport was the final piece in the puzzle for the new registrars.

Aircrew instructor Matt O'Rourke said the recruits were lowered down a winch wire and practised double winching and stretcher winching over land to get them ready for a range of emergency scenarios.

They also practised dealing with a range of ground-based medical emergencies including chest injuries and road crash victims .

Mr O'Rourke, who visits the Gladstone region each month, said it took a special type of person to join CareFlight.

"It can be demanding - because it's very new," he said. "It's very different for many of them.

"There are usually two or three out of the group that have had some prior experience, but the rest have come directly from the emergency department.

"It's a huge change. The aviation industry can be fairly high risk compared to that of an emergency department - just given the nature of helicopters and flying.

"Some of the missions and the locations where jobs are undertaken, especially the hazards around the winching."

The Gladstone CareFlight service is funded by businesses and exists mainly to transfer injured and sick workers from Curtis Island.

It does attend public medical emergencies such as car crashes when required.

Mr O'Rourke said Gladstone's Bell 412 helicopter was well equipped and carried four people.

"It carries a pilot, a co-pilot, a doctor and a paramedic," he said. "There's a bit of equipment - about 100kg.

"That includes medical packs and a medical bridge, which is almost set up like a mini intensive care unit - it has a ventilator, syringe drivers, monitoring equipment.

"We also have a winch on the aircraft. The Bell 412 is a very multi-role helicopter.

"It's not the fastest by any means - but you can do a number of different tasks in the helicopter - it's a very stable platform.

"It certainly has a good cabin space for the medical crew."

As well as Gladstone, the doctors will be stationed on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, Roma, Toowoomba, Brisbane, Townsville, Cairns, Mackay and Rockhampton.

Topics:  careflight central queensland emergency rescue

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