The Northern Territory news Sat 5 Oct 2019
The Northern Territory news; NewspaperNT
Community newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin; Australian newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin
News Corp Australia
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News Corp Australia
16 NEWS SATURDAY OCTOBER 5 2019 NTNE01Z01MA - V1 LAUREN ROBERTS Health Reporter CareFlight NT is calling for federal funding for a second rescue helicopter Picture: SUPPLIEDWITH slow, deliberate move ments, a 5m saltwater crocodile slowly pulls his body across the water at the Adelaide River. The reptile approaches the riverbank, tugging himself onto the muddy shore and collapsing on the sand. There he sits, lazily soaking up the suns rays. From its position low in the sky, the crew on board CareFlight NTs only aeromedical rescue helicopter is close enough to make out the beasts movements. But theyve got no interest in the ancient creature. Theyre focused on the task at hand. The crew has just been called to a small community near Jabiru, where a man believed to be in his 40s has had a seizure and stopped breathing. Its already been 19 minutes since local health workers started attempting to resuscitate him and the crew on board the quick-moving helicopter are still 57 minutes away far too long considering for a life and death emergency. The likelihood of him surviving is low but all four of the men in the chopper are committed to getting to the scene. Theyre discussing potential worse case scenarios was it a medical condition? Heart attack? Was he bitten? Where exactly is he? At a station? A home? In the dense scrubland? Where can they land a school oval? A clearing near the clinic? The helicopter continues to race through the clouds when the call theyve been dreading comes in local doctors have called it. The man has died. A quiet fills the air as the chopper turns around and heads back to its base at Darwin International Airport. But not all cases end in heartbreak, explains CareFlight midwife and nurse Matt Auld back at the hanger. On average, CareFlights call centre takes about 150 calls a day and between its three fixed wing planes and the helicopter and crews respond to roughly 11 cases a day. There are some days when the team spends hours waiting for the phone to ring, and others when all its assets are out retrieving patients and theres still a list of people waiting to be picked up. On its busiest shift, CareFlight rescued 27 people from across the Top End. It can be everything from nothing to chaos, Matt says. You cant plan for car accidents, you cant plan for medical events. Different seasons carry different risks. In the Dry, Matt explains, there are more people on the roads driving which means the team expects to see more road trauma. During the Wet, when communities are closed off by road closures, its common to see infections go wild and more medical illnesses to be called in. Matt works between the fixed wing planes and the chopper, which is the only emergency retrieval helicopter for the Top End. All other states of Australia have at least three medical rescue helicopters, but the Top Ends only helicopter looks after 475,000sq km of often rocky and dangerous terrain. The NT helicopter spends at least 30 per cent of the year on the ground because of regular maintenance requirements, which means its totally unable to fly for nearly four months. A second chopper would help close the gap on medical rescue capability, from 70 per cent service availability to more than 95 per cent availability. CareFlight is calling on the Federal Government to provide $10 million to buy a second helicopter and while NT general manager Philip Robert says hes had several positive meetings with leaders in Canberra, no-one was close to handing over a cheque yet. Matt explains other Australian jurisdictions also have specialty teams which focus on caring for very young babies or elderly patients. But Matt treats everyone his call-outs can be for newborns or Territorians in their 90s. Theres one recent case which stands out to Matt. In March this year, Matt was in Katherine to collect a patient when a horror crash happened about 100km away only about eight minutes by flight. With him was a doctor, a gear set and spare bloods, and the team was instructed to head out to the scene. The guy was critically ill, he was dying before our eyes and it was a race against time to get him to the hospital, Matt says. We managed to save his life. The patient wasnt wearing a seatbelt which meant he had quite complex injuries, and he desperately needed a surgeon. Matt remembers pumping as much blood as possible into the man, getting him into the helicopter and then calling ahead so someone at the hospital could meet them at the helipad with more blood and roll him straight into the theatre. Against the odds, the patient survived but had such bad pelvic fractures that he had to see a specialist interstate. He returned a few weeks later and he walked off the aircraft, the last time I saw him he was dead, Matt says. A very different rescue stands out in the memory of CareFlight chopper pilot Jamie Humphreys. Jamie was the chopper pilot on duty on May 21 this year when a helicopter crashed in Kakadu National Park. Three men in their 50s were on board doing a feral pig and buffalo cull when it plummeted into scrubland shortly before 10am. All three were in a serious It can be everything from nothing to chaos Conditions apply* *Limit one redemption per eligible member. Provided you remain a member and is only available to members who have not previously redeemed a digital magazine subscription, within 12 months. Magazine cover featured may not be available at time of redemption. Rewards Members can redeem now at ntnews.com.au/rewards You can enjoy a 12 month digital magazine subscription from GQ, Vogue, delicious., taste and more. 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