The Chairperson of CareFlight, Dr Andrew Refshauge, has formally announced the appointment of Mick Frewen to the role of Chief Executive Officer of CareFlight, following the retirement of Derek Colenbrander after nearly 14 years in the role.

Mr Frewen was appointed by the Board in February after an extensive executive search, and formally took over the role this week.

Mr Frewen comes to CareFlight after a ten year management career with International SOS, the world’s largest medical and travel security assistance company. International SOS has deep roots in emergency medical retrieval, servicing multi-national companies, governments and NGOs globally. It is a company well-known to CareFlight, both as a current customer of CareFlight and previously as a business partner of CareFlight in a joint venture to provide aeromedical evacuation services to the Australian Army. Mr Frewen’s most recent role with International SOS was Regional General Manager Assistance Australasia.

Prior to joining International SOS Mr Frewen spent 20 years in the army in Commando and SAS roles. He retired from the Army in 2007, having attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Speaking about Mr Frewen’s appointment to the Chief Executive role, CareFlight Chairperson Dr Andrew Refshauge said: “Mick’s leadership and management skills, clearly demonstrated in challenging commercial and military roles, combined with his experience in and knowledge of the emergency medical retrieval sector, make him eminently well qualified to lead CareFlight. Operating within our charter and ethos as a not-for-profit organisation, with a primary focus on patient care and serving the community, his brief is to maintain the growth trajectory on which the organisation is already set.”

Mr Frewen said, “My whole career has been focussed on working with a team to achieve our mission. I was immensely attracted to the idea of doing that in a not-for-profit environment, where the over-riding imperative is to deliver the very highest standards of care, and where staff are motivated by a sense of purpose and service to the community. That is what CareFlight is all about. It is an ethos with which I identify, and which I will strive to uphold.”

Mr Frewen will spend the next few weeks meeting staff and key partner organisations in Sydney, Darwin, Broome and Perth.

CareFlight was operating out of demountables, with a staff of around 50, when Mr Colenbrander, then the organisation’s legal adviser and a director, took over as Chief Executive Officer in late 2004. Since then, although the spirit of CareFlight and its sense of purpose have remained constant, the organisation has grown and evolved almost beyond recognition.

Patient numbers have increased from around 1,200 per annum to a current annualised level of around 7,500 per annum. CareFlight has grown from a state based organisation to one which operates nationally, with bases in New South Wales, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Staff numbers are expected to reach nearly 500 by the end of 2018.

CareFlight’s fleet of aircraft – a mix of medi-jets, turbo-prop planes and helicopters – take medical teams to some of the remotest communities in Australia, bringing the highest level of care to patients, and transporting them to hospital. Our Rapid Response helicopter gets specialist doctors to critically ill patient in the Sydney region, the fastest service in the world. Our teams also move patients between medical facilities, both intrastate and interstate, for specialist care. Internationally, CareFlight’s medi-jet teams retrieve patients from as far east as Tahiti, as far west as India and as far north as China.

CareFlight provides education and training programs across the country, upskilling doctors, nurses, paramedics and first responders in pre-hospital and trauma care.

“I’m very proud to have been part of this very special organisation that helps thousands of people every year. It has been my great privilege to work with a team of exceptionally dedicated and talented people. Together we have built on the groundwork laid by our founders more than 30 years ago, to create a truly wonderful, caring organisation. Throughout, we have remained true to our mission: to save lives, speed recovery and serve the community,” Mr Colenbrander said.