HEMS: The Frontlines of Australia’s Emergency Medical Care


September 14, 2023

Luke Vanson, Sales Manager, APAC.


Since 1973, Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) has been a vital component of Australia’s emergency services. The nation’s rugged beauty is a double-edged sword. Whilst it captivates with its beauty, it challenges with its geography. The capabilities of rotor-wing transportation are naturally tailored to overcome this challenge. Yet there is always room for innovation. Looking ahead to the future, enhancing the speed and efficiency of care will magnify HEMS’ value for Australian medical services.

HEMS bridges the gap between remote communities and urban medical facilities, deploying highly specialised medical care within the critical care window. Aviation solutions are set apart by their rapid response – they can reach the point of incident three to five times faster than ground services.[1] Modifications to HEMS fleets further set them apart from ground services. Greater capacity for equipment ensures a higher level of care – in critical cases, HEMS is proven to increase the chances of patients’ survival.

Contracting HEMS services enables State governments to capitalise on the local expertise of operators. At CHC, for example, we have just been recognised for our exceptional operations in Australia. As winners of the Rotary Wing Business of the Year and Aerial Services Business of the Year at the Australian Aviation Awards 2023, we are credited for our outstanding service provision nationally. Alongside recognition of our operations holistically, our team members were finalists in both the Female Aviation Leader of the Year and Commercial Pilot of the Year categories. To entrust operators with such a vital component of emergency medical care, authorities need faith in the reliability and expertise of their services.

The global infrastructure of operators is also of significant value when providing HEMS, offering greater efficiency. We have streamlined our maintenance services by integrating AMOS into our systems. In practice, this means we are one of only two operators in Australia with Part 145 and Part 42 certifications and the only one who has delivered H145 and AW139 services together on the same contract. Ensuring we optimise the availability of our fleet means we can always be ready to respond, and quickly.

By partnering with global operators, local authorities can be confident that their emergency medical services rely on the latest and safest technologies that have been tried and tested across the globe. In Australia for example, White Phosphor Night Vision Imaging Systems are our standard for conducting low light rescue missions and something that many other operators don’t utilise. The ability to mobilise 24/7 is crucial, and the use of such advanced military grade technology means we can conduct critical rescue missions effectively at any hour.

The technology and systems we deploy are driven by understanding our customers’ needs. We know that in a crisis, communication matters. That’s why we use iSAR Live – a communication tool that provides better management during an evolving emergency response. iSAR ensures we can tailor our medical care to each mission's requirements, taking into account the size and severity of the incidents we are responding to, in order to ensure the HEMS support mobilised can meet the task at hand.

Not only do we have a track record for delivering efficient and effective HEMS services, but we also cultivate industry-wide improvements globally. CHC’s Safety and Quality Summit 2023, taking place in Vancouver this November, nurtures collaboration to improve the safety and quality of services across rotor-wing services. HEMS providers will gather to consider how we can improve aviation standards in Australia and across the globe. The CHC Safety & Quality Summit was first held in 2004 and now occurs annually bringing delegates from over 25 countries together to discuss and share innovations in safety, which is a testament to our dedication to industry collaboration and advancement.

Our HEMS operations in Australia are the frontline of emergency medical care and currently transitioning to what will be the most advanced HEMS aircraft in the country, assuming a crucial responsibility to respond in those vital minutes where every second counts. Our local knowledge and global footprint work in partnership to provide the most efficient, life-saving medical care our industry has to offer. The vital link HEMS provides between isolated communities and urban medical facilities will continue to be of paramount importance in the future, and our recent innovations have equipped us to meet the growing demand.