AIR Ambulance Victoria, AAV, last week celebrated 60 years of pre-hospital care.
The AAV wing of Ambulance Victoria, AV, began in 1962 with one rotary-wing aircraft and one fixed-wing plane.
Now, a fleet of four fixed-wing planes and five helicopters, HEMS, work to provide a link between rural communities and metropolitan health services.
In 2020-21, AAV responded to more than 7000 incidents, over 1000 more than in the previous year, with the fixed-wing fleet transporting more than 5000 patients.
AV manager of air operations Anthony de Wit said AAV had come a long way in improving pre-hospital care in Australia.
“While it’s difficult to confirm the number of lives saved since 1962, over the past decade AAV has assisted more than 50,000 people throughout Victoria and our bordering communities,” he said.
“Our fixed-wing arm is the backbone of AAV and it cares for so many patients per year, really helping to connect regional and rural Victoria with the health services that metropolitan Melbourne has to offer.”
Fixed-wing aircraft, typically staffed by advanced life support, ALS, flight paramedics, and HEMS, staffed by mobile intensive care ambulance, MICA, flight paramedics, reach across Victoria and into parts of southern New South Wales, northern Tasmania and South Australia.
The service is made up of more than 35 ALS flight paramedics and almost 50 MICA flight paramedics, supported by a team of flight coordinators, pilots, air crew officers, doctors, engineers, trade assistants, retrieval services and administrators.
The fixed-wing service works to fly patients with acute medical conditions requiring surgery, transfer injured patients from regional hospitals and retrieve critically ill patients from regional hospitals to specialist care, such as cardiac care and intensive care. A major upgrade has also been announced for the service.
The five HEMS are based at Essendon, the Latrobe Valley, Bendigo and Warrnambool and are called out for life-threatening emergencies, which are mainly trauma and paediatric cases, as well as a small amount of search and rescue and transporting remote patients.
Mr de Wit said AAV always worked to a high standard, with trained professionals present on every flight.
“At AAV, the performance and standard we demand of our staff is of the highest quality, and we continually strive to improve our clinical care and upgrade our facilities – it’s been a privilege to manage AAV,” he said.
“We walk in the shadow of those over the last 60 years and people all over the world use us as a model. That’s something to be celebrated.”