Specialist team retrieves 5000th child in need of life-saving care

12 November 2021

The Children’s Health Queensland Retrieval Service team has safely transported its 5,000th young patient in need of urgent specialist paediatric care.

Based in the Queensland Children’s Hospital, the service specialises in triaging referrals for critically ill and injured children and young people from metropolitan, regional and remote health facilities across Queensland and northern New South Wales.

The team of more than 50 clinicians is on stand-by 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Since the service started in late 2014, the team has retrieved, via Retrieval Services Queensland, an average of just over 700 children and young people a year.

Critical respiratory conditions, including asthma and bronchiolitis, are the most common reasons for a retrieval (making up 46% of cases), followed by neurological conditions (such as seizures and strokes), major trauma injuries, and cardiac and gastroenterological conditions.

Children’s Health Queensland Retrieval Service director Dr Paul Holmes said experienced paediatric medical coordinators carefully assessed each child’s individual clinical needs to ensure they receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

“In almost half of all referrals, a specialist team from the Queensland Children’s Hospital is dispatched to local communities to accompany critically ill and injured children on their transfer via road ambulances, fixed wing (plane) or rotary wing aircraft (helicopter),” Dr Holmes said.

“The retrieval team includes a paediatric intensive care doctor and nurse who can provide lifesaving treatments during transit which are usually only available in paediatric intensive care units, including extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a type of life support.

“Around 75 per cent of all referrals are children aged under five years, with many requiring nasal high-flow oxygen to support their breathing en route. These children are extremely unwell and safely transferring them to the most appropriate healthcare facility at the optimal time can have a significant impact on the long-term health outcomes for patients and their families.”

Congratulating the service on performing it’s 5,000th retrieval, Children’s Health Queensland Chief Executive Frank Tracey said the dedicated team played a vital role in connecting the state’s sickest children with specialist care when they needed it most.

“Our retrieval service ensures children are safely treated in the most appropriate location in a timely way, which can be of great comfort to families at a very difficult time,” Mr Tracey said.

“To further support the delivery of high-quality paediatric care in various situations, the Children’s Health Queensland Retrieval Service provides on-demand paediatric critical care advice to assist clinicians to provide care locally where appropriate, and also partners with educators to train regional teams.

“Overall, our retrieval service coordinates around 1600 specialised paediatric transfers each year, including cases performed by other government and non-government services, like the Royal Flying Doctors and LifeFlight.

“This collaborative approach supports our ongoing goal to build a connected statewide system of care with a shared purpose of delivering the best care, experiences and outcomes for Queensland children and young people.”


Media contact: t: +61 7 3068 5111 e: chqnews@health.qld.gov.au