The NSW Ambulance Aeromedical Team of Terry Sadowsky and Dr Brian Burns stand next to both a NSW Ambulance vehicle and an Ambulance Victoria vehicle outside Melbourne’s The Alfred Hospital

When times are tough – and they certainly have been this year – the support of one another has been key to maintaining resilience among NSW Ambulance’s clinicians and control staff.

Given this is an organisation that prides itself on helping those in need, it’s perhaps not surprising that

NSW Ambulance’s support sometimes extends beyond state borders.

The latest example of our organisation offering a helping hand has been in Victoria, where the south-eastern state’s health system has recently felt the full force of COVID-19’s Delta strain, similar to what NSW was experiencing weeks earlier.

During the onset of Victoria’s most recent spike, NSW Ambulance’s Executive Director of Aeromedical Operations, Dr Sarah Coombes, had offered Ambulance Victoria support through our experience of the NSW outbreak and the potential use of any of our Aeromedical COVID surge assets.

“We started talking to Victoria and said, ‘Look, this is where we have been and what is likely coming your way’,” Sarah said.

“They had surged already in terms of an additional road retrieval unit but didn’t have much capacity to surge beyond what they had.

“We had this window of opportunity where our COVID-19 case numbers were dropping, but we were still waiting to see what happened with NSW opening up again so hadn’t stood any of our additional resources down.

We said to them if you need surge capacity we may be able to provide you with a retrieval vehicle and medical team. Let us know if you think you’ll need it.”

Following further discussions, a road retrieval vehicle was sent down, along with a rotation of teams which in total consisted of four critical care doctors and three critical care paramedics.

The road retrieval team spent 14 days assisting with COVID-19 patient transfers, working closely with

Ambulance Victoria’s Adult Retrieval Victoria (ARV) division.

Dr Coombes said the NSW team were “positively welcomed” upon their arrival in Victoria, which has since had lasting benefits.

“Everybody was keen to have a chat with them and look at the way we do business, the way they do business, and explore the learning opportunities from each other,” she said.

Following the deployment of the road retrieval team, NSW Ambulance’s Aeromedical Operations has further strengthened its ties with the ARV by inviting them to take part in Aeromedical’s daily ‘coffee and cases’ job debriefings and by remotely attending one of our regular monthly Education Days.

Dr Brian Burns, a NSW Ambulance Critical Care Doctor, was part of the first team deployed to Victoria.

“It was quite interesting because when we pulled up to some of the hospitals in a NSW Ambulance vehicle, some of the Ambulance Victoria paramedics were a bit bemused why we were down there – but they were all very friendly and welcoming” he said.

“We were shown great hospitality by them, in particular by ARV. It was good to collaborate with them.”