The RFDS in WA
A state-wide Coordination Centre (previously referred to as our Operations Centre), staffed by RFDS Operations Coordinators, RFDS retrieval doctors as Clinical Coordinators and a St John Ambulance Liaison Officer, is located in Perth at Jandakot Airport. The Centre has a full range of telephone, fax, radio and other electronic communications.
Almost 40,000 incoming medical and emergency calls are handled each year by the Coordination Centre and distributed to RFDS doctors on a regional basis. On any weekday roughly 10 medical staff are on duty to take transport calls and undertake retrieval flights. At night, calls are distributed to a minimum of 6 doctors. An additional Clinical Coordinator, a senior retrieval doctor, is also located in the Coordination Centre, to oversee transport demands and liaise with receiving and referring hospitals during peaks of activity. An ambulance liaison officer helps to streamline our interaction with the road ambulance service and over 16,000 road ambulance tasks which our staff coordinate to match aero medical flights.
The Coordination Centre handles in excess of 500 incoming and outgoing calls every day. For each aero medical task, there are a number of calls to task pilots, flight nurses and doctors, plus calls relating to air strips, fuelling, lighting, liaising with the calling location and arranging road transport links.
The single Coordination Centre ensures prompt single-point of contact and one-stop access to medical advice and aero medical transport. The use of multiple experience doctors across the state as part of an extended "virtual" Coordination Centre ensures that most callers speak to a retrieval doctor with a high level of local geographical and logistical knowledge. The system also ensures that multiple doctors are available to handle multiple concurrent emergency calls at the one time.
All calls through the Coordination Centre are voice-logged. When calls are received a few core items of information are obtained, then the caller is switched through to a duty retrieval doctor within approximately 2 minutes. Transport requests from country hospitals must be made by the treating doctor and the patient must be accepted by a medical practitioner at the receiving hospital. In addition, referrals for transport must be authorised by an RFDS medical officer. Three medical practitioners approving any transfer minimises the likelihood of unnecessary transfers being made.
Communications with aircraft occurs using aviation radio bands (mostly VHF through repeaters across the state), or satellite phones installed in each aircraft. Incoming and outgoing calls can be conference or switched through to internal or external phone numbers. Our WAN (wide area network) across the state provides direct links to each base including monitoring of equipment (such as drug fridges), security cameras and remote control of some radio communications. A 'live view' tabulation of outstanding retrieval requests and those already underway is available across our network to clinical staff, as is an online map showing the location of each active aircraft.