Your chance to be part of aeromedical history
MARGARET Rudd can recall a time when her only communication with the outside world was a two-way radio to the Royal Flying Doctor Service base.
It was the 1960s, and she was living on an isolated central western Queensland cattle property about 140km north of Aramac on Lake Galilee.
"We were a Flying Doctor base - they'd fly in and have monthly clinics at our property," Mrs Rudd said.
"Everyone would line up for their needles and we'd quite often have injured stockmen or sick people."
Now Mrs Rudd and her friends at The Lakes Bundaberg retirement village have dedicated themselves to raising funds for local charities.
The Lakes Ducks Mahjong Group hosts an annual festival for local and intra-state mahjong players. Each year, they raffle off items such as pot plants, knee rugs, watches and vouchers, all with the aim of raising $500 for the local Royal Flying Doctor Service.
This year, the group's donation has earned them a commemorative tile on the "wall of appreciation" that will welcome workers and visitors to a new state-of-the-art base, which will be home for both the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue and the Royal Flying Doctor Service Bundaberg Base.
RACQ LifeFlight Rescue's Director of Community Development, Leanne Angel, is aiming for the wall of appreciation to raise around $250,000 towards the $6 million overall budget of the base.
Buying a tile costs from $250 to $10,000, depending on size.
"You don't have to break the bank to support this groundbreaking project," Ms Angel said.
"We'd love individuals, community groups and sporting groups to be a part of history.
"Commemorative tiles begin at $250."
The Australian Government is supporting 50 per cent of the project, with donations and sponsorship to cover the rest.
"It means that (RACQ LifeFlight Rescue and RFDS Bundaberg) is looking jointly for $3 million, and we're asking the community to be a part of that and help us fund that infrastructure," Ms Angel said.
Ms Angel said the community was excited to be a part of the fundraising project.
"Every day, the pilots and aeromedical teams at RACQ LifeFlight and RFDS are delivering exceptional care to visitors and residents of Bundaberg, Wide Bay and beyond," she said.
"We exist to serve the community when they need it most, so we're so grateful to those supporting us."
RFDS Queensland Chief Operating Officer Andrew Barron said the plan for Bundaberg's new aeromedical base was hatched about two years ago.
"The facility we're currently using is very old, very small, and the amount of growth in work coming out of Bundaberg means it was no longer fit for purpose," he said.
The walls of the new base are being constructed, and Mr Barron is confident the facility will be ready for launch in early 2020.
We exist to serve the community when they need it most, so we're so grateful to those supporting us.
LEANNE ANGEL, RACQ LIFEFLIGHT RESCUE
A crucial part of the new design is a dedicated patient transfer facility for people who are being flown on to other hospital destinations. Mr Barron described it as being similar to an observation ward in a hospital's Emergency Department.
"[It will have] all of the clinical bells and whistles to be able to properly hold and treat the patient, a much better location, and air-conditioned rooms," he said.
"It is what is needed to properly care for patients. There will be undercover access for ambulances so they're not out in the elements."
The majority of the aeromedical base's footprint will be taken by the hangars for the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue chopper and the RFDS Bundaberg plane.
"When you're co-locating choppers and planes the wash from the choppers and the props from the planes become issues for each other," Mr Barron said.
"The aviation guys worked together and came up with solutions that would mitigate those sorts of things, so we have the chopper coming in from one side and the planes from the other.
"It's a much bigger, purpose-built facility, so there will be much better access in and out of the facility when they are doing maintenance."
Top-notch engineering facilities mean engineering works can be completed on home soil instead of being sent away, getting planes and helicopters back in the air quickly.
The rest of the base will include nurse and pilot offices for preparing flight plans and hospital visits, a car park and crew quarters for those working around the clock, as well as meeting rooms and dedicated training rooms with sophisticated mannequins and immersive video technology for training scenarios.
"When the crews aren't out retrieving patients, a lot of the focus is on training to keep their skills up," Mr Barron said.
"Because it's a co-location between RACQ LifeFlight Rescue and RFDS we have the requirement for enhanced training facilities."
Mrs Rudd said she was looking forward to taking a tour when the base opened; her club's name transcribed in its history.
"We've seen the walls going up from the main road, and I think it's wonderful," she said.
"We're planning for our mahjong party next year and with the raffle we should be able to raise another $500."
RDFS and RACQ LifeFlight Rescue need to raise $3 million to support the building of the new Aeromedical Base and Patient Transfer Facility. Community support is essential to ensure aeromedical services can be provided to Bundaberg and Wide Bay residents for decades to come.
To donate, head here.