Thursday, November 16, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Helipad Closure Sparks Emergency Plea

For Immediate Patient Care Solutions

The closure of the helipad at Mackay Base Hospital for three years presents significant challenges for the region’s rescuers and a potential risk to patient care.

The $250 million upgrade of the hospital commencing in January 2024. which includes a new roof-top helipad was very welcomed but was a huge concern for RACQ CQ Rescue which would be unable to land onsite in Mackay to transfer patients.

“Conducting patient transfers at the Mackay Airport was “unacceptable” and would place considerable strain on an already stretched Queensland Ambulance Service, as well as blow out hospital transfer times. It could also be potentially very detrimental to patient care outcomes,” RACQ CQ Rescue CEO Tim Healee said.

The community-funded rescue service was strongly advocating for an alternative temporary helipad to be constructed on site at the hospital and had the full support of corporate supporters, including many heavy weights from the state’s mining industry.

“To be unable to take a critically ill patient directly to the Mackay Base Hospital is just not an acceptable situation, considering we are talking a three-year period here,” Mr Healee said.

“Conducting a patient handover to ambulance crews at the Mackay Airport will also significantly increase the time it takes to get a patient to the hospital and places additional pressure on Queensland Ambulance Service crews,” he said.

“We have been attempting to engage with various stakeholders including the Mackay base Hospital on this issue for quite some time now, but at this stage there is still yet to be an acceptable outcome.”

An urgent and combined effort between multiple stakeholders, including Queensland Health, the State Government and Mackay Regional Council, was needed to reach an agreement.

“At the end of the day, our lifesaving service relies heavily on community support and we are doing our very best to advocate for our patients and prioritise their care in this region,” Mr Healee said.

“I hope that all stakeholders can come together urgently and agree on a better solution for the safe transfer and treatment of our ill and injured in Central Queensland.”

Amanda Camm MP, Member for Whitsunday said she supports RACQ CQ Rescue Service in calling on the State Government to give a commitment to the people of the Mackay, Isaac and Whitsunday regions that the helipad at the Mackay Base Hospital will remain operational during the hospital’s redevelopment period over the next three years.

“The decision to close the helipad has been made with no community consultation, with no consultation from key stakeholders or emergency personnel,” Ms Camm added.

“In emergency situations minutes and seconds count. It is essential for our rescue services to be able to land within close proximity to the emergency care at the hospital. Having to land at the Mackay Airport and have patients transported to the hospital by Queensland ambulance is unacceptable and will risk lives.

“I’m calling on the Minister to work with the Mackay Hospital Health Service and the local community and local experts to find an acceptable solution which will ensure the helicopter can land within close proximity to the hospital during the renovation period.

“Our community pours significant funding into the CQ Rescue Service every year and they deserve to have it operating at full capacity, giving them the best chance in an emergency,” Ms Camm said.

“In a region where we have experienced road accidents, shark attacks, mining and farming accidents, lives have been saved because our rescue helicopter has been able to land in close proximity to the hospital.

“We cannot afford to risk losing this service for the next three years”.

In a statement issued on Facebook, Mackay Hospital and Health Service said that the helicopter landings at Mackay Base Hospital have temporarily relocated to the Mackay airport “at the request of CQ Rescue and Babcock Aviation”.

“This is due to their concern with early site works associated with the expansion of the hospital,” the statement read.

“CQ Rescue has conducted a risk assessment, and we are working with them to have landings restored to the Base Hospital for an interim period.”

The statement mentions that the $250 million Mackay Base Hospital expansion project includes provision for a new permanent onsite helipad.

“This expansion will deliver an additional 128 beds which are expected to come online in mid 2026,” the statement continued.

“These new beds are urgently needed to help support the growing healthcare needs of the region.

“The current helipad is adjacent to the construction site and cannot remain in use during the construction period.

“Mackay HHS has engaged an external aviation consultant to assess all options for helicopter landings during the construction period from 2024 - 2026. Once this advice is received, we will be in a position to make a fully informed decision on the best outcome for our community.

“The aviation consultant has engaged with stakeholders such as Queensland Ambulance Service, CQ Rescue and Retrieval Services Queensland (who coordinate the movements of patients between hospital facilities).

“We reassure the community that the safety of patients and the helicopter crews will be the top consideration as we identify helicopter landing site options.”

To date, RACQ CQ Rescue has completed 629 missions this year. By the end of the year, this completed missions figure will far surpass the services’ second busiest year on record of 630 missions in 2022.

RACQ CQ Rescue says the closure of the helipad at Mackay Base Hospital for three years presents significant challenges for the region’s rescuers and a potential risk to patient care. Photo credit: RACQ CQ Rescue

Member for Whitsunday Amanda Camm says it is unacceptable to not be able to land onsite at Mackay Base Hospital due to hospital redevelopment as proposed for the next three years. Photo credit: Office of Amanda Camm MP

In other news