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Cornish & Associates


Scope of the Review

The review was requested by the Department of Health and Families to consider and to
provide advice on the following objectives:
• Provision of a preferred model for logistics coordination of aeromedical services in
the Top End;
• Undertake a review of the aviation resources available to the service;
• Provide a life of type assessment of the current fleet of aircraft and the provision of an
aircraft replacement plan;
• Consideration and advice as to service frequency and reliability factors;
• Provide advice on service performance measures; and
• Consideration of the relevant parts of the previous review conducted in 2006.

Many of the recommendations of the previous 2006 Review have already been
However, two issues still require more work. These are:

• Recommendation 2: Coordination of aeromedical services in the Top End be

improved in the first instance;

• Recommendation 11: The present contract with Pearl Aviation and its provisions be
reviewed with emphasis on the state of the aeromedical fleet in terms of reliability,
the expected Life of Type of the aircraft in the current Aeromedical Contract and their
ability to deliver reliable services to the end of the contract in 2014, the effect on
services of the present shortage of pilots and how that issue will be addressed, and
new provisions in the contract to ensure more effective service delivery.

Issues to be Addressed
There are a number of changes that need to be made to increase the efficiency,
quality and delivery of the aeromedical services. The main issues are:

1. The implementation of a centralised clinical coordination system for Darwin,

Katherine and Gove (the Top End) is now required to ensure tasking efficiencies.
An effective clinical coordination model exists in Queensland and in New South
Wales. The Review recommends a Clinical Coordination System be implemented
as described in this paper where there is a single dial number to the Duty Clinical
Coordinator based in Darwin and the use of the St John Ambulance
Communication Centre at Berrimah as the aeromedical resource-tasking centre.
Implementation of this system would eventually lead to a combination with the
Alice Springs System for a single point of contact system for all of the Northern
Territory. (Recommendation 1 and 7)

2. Fleet replacement of the present aeromedical fleet of aircraft is viewed as the only
effective way to improve aircraft availability and reliability to the level of best

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practice expected of an aeromedical service. Fleet replacement may involve

considerable financial investment. (Recommendation 3)

3. Pearl Aviation believed that operations out of Katherine Airfield were unsafe due
to the level of activity of Wallabies on the airfield. Consequently the Katherine
based King Air was withdrawn and based at Darwin. This repositioning and a
higher than normal rate of aircraft unserviceability has resulted in a further
reduction of aeromedical service delivery levels to the people of the Northern

The review has made four major conclusions that are:
• a new system of coordination and tasking of aeromedical services needs to be
implemented as soon as possible (Recommendations 1 & 7);

• the present fleet of old aeromedical aircraft do not meet the standard of best
practice when compared to other aeromedical service providers and the fleet
requires upgrading as soon as practical (Recommendations 3);

• the future aim should be for a fully integrated aeromedical service

provider (aviation and medical) for the Northern Territory (Recommendation 4); and

• the need for a Rotary Wing Disaster Relief Capability in Darwin along similar lines to
that established in the Torres Strait area be explored (Recommendation 8).

A number of recommendations that stem from the above conclusions and issues
have been made. Recommendations from the report are:

1. A centralised clinical coordination system for Darwin, Katherine and Gove is

required to ensure tasking efficiencies and for a single dial number for

2. Rebase an aircraft in Katherine once safety clearance is obtained to assist in the

improvement of response times and reliability of service delivery to the people in the
Katherine and surrounding communities.

3. Adopt a best practice aircraft requirement and replacement program.

4. Consider as a future option, the provision of a complete aeromedical service where

the service provider supplies full service coordination, compliant aircraft, pilots,
doctors, flight nurses and full engineering support.

5. Future contracts should be for a 5 year period plus two 1 year extensions. This allows
the sponsor of the service to work to a shorter contract period and enables retender if
service delivery circumstances or requirements change.

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6. Consideration be given to the provision of an Aeromedical Facility at Darwin Airport

to provide hangarage for up to two aeromedical aircraft together with a “clean”
medical area for the processing or holding of patients awaiting air or ground
transport. This may require involvement of the Emergency Management Australia
(EMA) and the Department of Defence if it is thought this has national implications
for disaster relief.

7. A future option is that after the new Clinical Coordination and Tasking system
has been operating in the Top End for about 2 years, consideration be given to
combining both the Alice Springs and Darwin Systems.

8. Consideration be given to the need for an integrated Rotary Wing Disaster Relief
Capability in Darwin along similar lines to that established in the Torres Strait area.