CareFlight will provide additional services to support communities across the Top End during the COVID-19 health emergency with funding provided by the Australian Government.

The Government today announced a $52.8 million aeromedical retrieval package to increase Australia’s aeromedical capacity to evacuate COVID-19 cases in remote regions.

CareFlight CEO, Mick Frewen, welcomed the Government funding.

“This funding allows us to increase our response capacity to this emergency and serve remote communities in the Northern Territory to deliver equity in healthcare to one of our most vulnerable populations,” Mr Frewen said.

CareFlight will increase its fixed wing retrieval service with a King Air B200 aircraft added to its existing Northern Territory fleet. The organisation will also extend the operating hours of its existing low-acuity aeromedical service and dedicate one of its Beechjet 400 aircraft for retrievals within the Territory.

CareFlight will also bolster its road transport services that currently operate between Palmerston Regional Hospital and Royal Darwin Hospital. Two additional staffed patient transport vehicles will be available for transfers from communities accessible by road as well as supplementing the existing hospital transport service.

CareFlight’s Medical Director in the Northern Territory, Dr John Roe, said it’s vital remote and rural communities have the same access to healthcare as those living in major cities.

“The Northern Territory community has been working hard to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our remote areas. This funding will allow us to scale up medical retrievals, minimise the likelihood of exposure to COVID-19, and provide a rapid response should an outbreak occur,” Dr John Roe explained

CareFlight’s increased services will also include an additional Medical Retrieval Consultant (MRC) to oversee all retrievals and provide clinical governance from when a patient is first referred to CareFlight through to their arrival at a hospital.

“This is absolutely vital, an additional Medical Retrieval Consultant provides support to health professionals on the ground to provide higher levels of patient care if an outbreak occurs and we can carefully observe the situation and stay ahead of the curve,” Dr Roe said.

“Without this additional commitment, the normal system would not cope with the increased demand and anticipated level of sickness. The extra services mean everyone gets access to world-class care even if things become extremely busy and challenging. Essentially, it means we can continue to save lives in the community.”

CareFlight provides the only aeromedical retrieval service in the Top End, on behalf of the Northern Territory Government, servicing the Top End of the Territory down to Borroloola in the east, Elliott in the centre and Lajamanu in the west.