RFDS 'enters jet age' with long-haul aircraft

RFDS 'enters jet age' with long-haul aircraft

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PATIENTS as far afield as Darwin will have improved access to Adelaide health services within weeks as the newly-launched RFDS Medi-Jet 24 takes to the skies.

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PATIENTS as far afield as Darwin will have improved access to Adelaide health services within weeks as the newly-launched RFDS Medi-Jet 24 takes to the skies.

The new, "flying intensive care unit" with the Royal Flying Doctor Service will allow the organisation to cover larger distances in a shorter period of time, with the capacity to transport up to three stretcher patients and four clinicians at any one time.

RFDS Central Operations chief executive officer Tony Vaughan called the new jet a "major milestone" in the organisation's history, as it "enters the jet age".

The idea for the $13 million medi-jet began four years ago, with the purpose-built aircraft "co-designed and built from the ground up" by RFDS and its aeroplane partners Pilatus, he said.

"It gives us superior capability for mass casualty incidences or natural disasters," Mr Vaughan said.

"It is unmatched in its ability to slash total mission times for interstate and long-haul trips."

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The medi-jet can travel up to 3400 kilometres without needing to refuel, and will cruise at similar altitudes to major commercial aircrafts.

"It can get to Darwin as quickly as we currently go to Alice Springs," Mr Vaughan said.

He said it would mostly be used for long-haul missions or transporting patients to interstate hospitals.

More than 20 patients are transferred through the patient transfer facility at the 2.5-year-old $19 million Adelaide RFDS base, daily, travelling from bases in Port Augusta, Broken Hill, NSW, Alice Springs, NT, and from Adelaide to interstate medical facilities.

With the new medi-Jet, Darwin patients will also be able to use the Adelaide base.

Pilots and clinicians will continue training in the new aircraft for the next five weeks, with it to begin operations mid-June.

The medi-jet has been named after former CEO John Lynch, who worked for the organisation for 30 years - 18 as CEO.

The aircraft was originally touted while Mr Lynch was still with the organisation.

"John's passion and commitment to meeting the needs of our patients has been second-to-none," RFDS chair Loretta Reynolds said.

Alongside the new medi-jet, RFDS and the SA government recently announced it would be streamlining the patient transfer between aeroplanes and ambulances, with 23 new powered stretchers provided.

Health and Wellbeing Minister Stephen Wade said this meant patients would not have to be moved between stretchers when transferring between and ambulance and a plane.

"Following the introduction of powered stretchers across the SA Ambulance Service fleet in 2017, patients transferring between hospitals via aircraft had to switch between stretchers twice," he said.

"We know that transfers can be stressful for patients so this really will provide comfort and reduce risk for both the patient and the health professionals involved."

Mr Wade also announced the government's existing seven-year inter-hospital transfer contract with the RFDS had been extended until 2022.

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