Rio Tinto Chief Executive Iron Ore Andrew Harding said Rio’s latest contribution towards the RFDS Aero Medical Fund builds on the company’s long-term partnership with the flying doctor and brings the total amount of money committed to the RFDS in WA to $22.5 million over the last decade.
“The health and safety of our people and the sustainability of our local communities lies at the heart of everything we do at Rio Tinto. Since 2009, the first Rio Tinto Life Flight jet has been providing critical medical care to all Western Australians, particularly people living in regional and remote communities,” Mr Harding said in a press release.
“We look forward to an expanded, world-leading Rio Tinto Life Flight jet fleet saving valuable time for doctors and nurses at the RFDS and, in the process, helping to save lives.”
Royal Flying Doctor Service Chief Executive Officer Grahame Marshall has welcomed Rio Tinto’s generous contribution, saying the new funding was on top of Rio Tinto’s existing long term commitment to the Life Flight jet which enables patients in need anywhere in the state to be reached within hours.
He said the extended commitment from the company will make Rio Tinto the single largest non-government contributor to the RFDS in Western Australia and further increase the flying doctor’s capacity in the future with the introduction of 4 new Pilatus PC24 jet aircraft.
“Since the jet’s first mission in October 2009, the aircraft has evacuated almost 1,500 patients, the majority (over 70%) from the more distant Kimberley and Pilbara regions,” Mr Marshall said.
“Delivery of the new Pilatus PC 24 jets, commencing in 2017, will see the realisation of a long-held and exciting dream for the RFDS and will provide a world leading aero medical service to the people and communities of Western Australia well into the future.”
He said the new jets – capable of landing and taking off from dirt airstrips – will be game changers for the RFDS with their ability to travel twice as far as the PC12 turbo prop aircraft in half the time.
“The Rio Tinto Life Flight jet when originally introduced allowed the RFDS to conduct the first double critical care transfer, where two critically ill patients were transported at the same time, each with their own critical care doctor and nurse team. The new PC24 jets will be able to take three stretcher patients at one time,” Mr Marshal said.
“The commitment from Rio Tinto has made a tremendous difference to our ability to respond to the needs of West Australians and today’s announcement of increased and long term support from Rio Tinto is another huge step forward for aero medical services in Australia.”