The Western Australian division of fixed-wing air ambulance operator Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) and Fortescue Metals Group, the Australian mining company, have initiated a partnership for the RFDS' first aeromedical helicopter service for Western Australia.
In an Australian first for the Flying Doctor, the five-year partnership will integrate two EC145 helicopters into the RFDS WA fleet. Ideal for hospital-to-hospital transfers, the Fortescue Heli-Med Service will provide RFDS' frontline crews with greater capacity to respond to the needs of patients and the WA health system.
RFDS WA chief executive officer Rebecca Tomkinson says: “The helicopters will work alongside the existing fleet of 20 fixed-wing aircraft to ensure the RFDS can continue to provide the best possible care for patients living, working and travelling in rural and remote communities.
“The RFDS is proud to be partnering with Fortescue to provide this service for Western Australians. We remain absolutely committed to our century-old promise to improve health equity for people living in remote and regional communities. The helicopters will enable many patients to get a faster journey to hospital. In what has been the busiest year in our history, having additional capability in our fleet is vitally important to our life-saving service.
“It is my absolute privilege to be part of the Royal Flying Doctor Service in WA as we take this new and exciting step forward, and I would like to sincerely thank Fortescue for its support, without which this new service wouldn't be possible.”
Fortescue CEO Elizabeth Gaines adds: “At Fortescue, we live by our culture and values, and nothing is more important than the health and safety of our team members, their families and the communities in which we operate. As a proud West Australian business with most of our team members either living or working in Pilbara, we want to ensure that regional and remote communities across our state have access to vital services such as those provided by the Royal Flying Doctor Service in WA. On behalf of the entire Fortescue family, I am pleased to officially launch the Fortescue Heli-Med Service in partnership with the RFDS, which will help meet the health needs of regional Western Australians now and into the future.”
The helicopters will serve regional communities including Bunbury, Jurien Bay, Northam, Narrogin and Margaret River, as well as destinations as close to Perth as Rottnest Island and the Peel region. The helicopters will significantly increase the RFDS' capacity to meet the critical health needs of regional Western Australians.
The trusted team of RFDS doctors and nurses is currently undergoing training to care for patients being transferred by helicopter. The RFDS will be introducing the helicopters to regional centres during a series of operational readiness flights before Christmas. The assets will be integrated into the RFDS fleet in early 2022.