New Roma LifeFlight chopper base officially opens

LifeFlight Australia’s highly anticipated, brand new Roma helicopter base has officially opened its doors, with a formal ceremony this morning, to mark the momentous occasion.

“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 Assistant Minister for Regional Development the Hon. Anthony Chisholm, 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.

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 circumstances – 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.”

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 that 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.

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

The service which is provided by LifeFlight on behalf of Surat Gas companies – Shell QGC, Santos, Arrow Energy and Origin – 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 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, Mark Lynch 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.

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

Community contributions raised through local businesses, individual donors, philanthropic and community support totalled more than $2.3 million. Such is the importance of the aeromedical service to the region, one anonymous donor contributed more than $700,000 towards the project.

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 builds awareness of the importance of LifeFlight’s aeromedical rescue services to the region.