LifeFlight Australia’s highly-anticipated, brand new Roma helicopter base has officially opened its doors.

“It’s really great to be able to see the new base finally come together and it’s easy to see that the multi-million-dollar facility is vital for future-proofing the aeromedical service in the region,” said LifeFlight Foundation Board Chair Hon. Rob Borbidge AO.

The newly-constructed facility was officially opened this morning, with Senator the Hon. Anthony Chisholm, in his capacity as Assistant Minister for Regional Development, LifeFlight Australia Board Chair Hon. Jim Elder, LifeFlight Foundation Board Chair Hon. Rob Borbidge AO and LifeFlight South West Regional Advisory Committee Chair Kate Scott unveiling a plaque at the commemorative event.

“This project has been a true partnership which has involved the Federal Government, generous community members, businesses, major donors, the Maranoa Regional Council, our SGAS partners and LifeFlight Australia,” said Kate Scott.

“As we look to the future of LifeFlight in our region, we will continue to support projects which help to deliver vital medical retrieval services.”

The naming rights sponsor of the new base was also revealed, with the facility to be known as the Lee Family and Australian Country Choice LifeFlight Centre.

The Lee Family Group is proudly supporting the work of LifeFlight, recognising it as an important partner in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of employees and the wider community. The family-owned business manages close to 1.75 million hectares of pastoral, grazing and farming land carrying up to 300,000 cattle. It operates from remote and challenging locations across regional Queensland, so having on-call professional medical aid is vital.

“For people in real need in isolated circumstance – there is no sight better than the vision of a LifeFlight rescue helicopter coming into view during an emergency,” said Australian Country Choice CEO Anthony Lee.

“Our investment in this new Roma facility is testament to the reliance we place on the LifeFlight service.”

The final cost of construction was $3.4million.

LifeFlight Australia was also supported by a $1,072,137 grant from the Australian Government and a long-term peppercorn lease from Maranoa Regional Council for the project.

“The Albanese Government has backed this project so LifeFlight has the facilities it needs to save lives in the future. This project highlights our commitment to delivering the services and infrastructure that regional communities need. Funding projects such as this ensures our regions remain a great place to live, work and visit,” said Assistant Minister Chisholm.

LifeFlight is grateful for these types of funding partnerships, which enable projects such as this one to be brought to life.

It was community contributions which ultimately made the project possible with more than $2.3 million raised through local businesses, individual donors, philanthropic and community support. Such is the importance of the aeromedical service to the region, one anonymous donor contributed more than $700,000 towards the project.

The state-of-the-art base, which features a hangar large enough to efficiently house an AW139 aircraft, will be home to the LifeFlight Surat Gas Aeromedical Service (SGAS) chopper and crew.

The service which is provided by LifeFlight on behalf of Surat Basin Gas companies – Shell’s QGC business, Santos, Arrow Energy and Australia Pacific LNG/Origin Energy – has been dedicated to the South West since 2011.

It was started to ensure gas company employees, their families and community members in South West Queensland had access to prompt emergency medical services and to minimise the impact on local medical services. As part of their commitment to the region the SGAS partners donate 150 flying hours each year to assure community aeromedical coverage.

“This is a significant improvement on the previous helicopter base. The fit-for-purpose centre will provide a robust regional hub in the Maranoa region, which is vital to meeting the increase in demand for emergency services in the South West,” said LifeFlight Australia Board Chair Hon. Jim Elder.

“And of course, we continue to work closely with the SGAS partners, and look forward to continuing to embrace that relationship into the future.”

In 2022 alone, the Roma LifeFlight SGAS helicopter crew helped 78 people, with the top five mission categories including motor vehicle incidents (17 missions), animal falls (7 missions) and cardiac/chest pain incidents (7 missions).

LifeFlight SGAS Pilot Simon Newman said the new facility will help crew members work even more efficiently, with more appropriate space to conduct on-site training, administration, engineering and maintenance activities.

“With the base being purpose-built, it is tailored to the needs of pilots, medical and support staff. That means it will be a lot easier and far more efficient to do our jobs, so that we are able to cater for the needs of our patients, as well as be ready for the next mission even more quickly,” he said.

Importantly, the local ambulance service will have straight-through access to the hangar and apron for patient and medical equipment transfer.

In coming months, the new base will see a visitor centre incorporated, which will offer an immersive experience that connects them with the LifeFlight and SGAS story and build awareness of the importance of LifeFlight’s aeromedical rescue services to the region.

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