Medical information will soon be shooting across Western Australia's regional expanses, with the development of a new AU$21.3 million medical communications network which will cover 2.55 million square kilometres and reach 454,000 people.
The network will allow medical information to be sent to emergency workers in the field, according to a spokesperson for the WA Minister for Energy, Resources, Industry and Enterprise Frank Logan.
The project — Bush Medivac WA — will involve implementing land-based and satellite systems to upgrade a large number of radio stations. "The project uses satellite because it provides a direct line to command centres without it needing to go through a medium connection," the spokesperson said.
Unlike radio, the new network will also enable the transfer of medical records: for example, information and images on a man injured in the outback can be obtained from a GP, the spokesperson said. "You can't provide the person with an X-ray over the radio," the spokesperson said.
The network will enable digital radio communications for ambulances, broadband access for health professionals on medical aircraft and video conferencing between medical facilities.
Emergency services will also be able to keep track of assets including ambulances using RFID, the spokesperson said. Bush fire fighting will also receive a boost, as the network will enable enhanced geospatial and sensing systems for bush fire mitigation planning and fire behavioural studies.
The Australian government is providing AU$9.28 million in funding for the project, while the WA Department of Industry and Resources and its consortium partners are contributing a further AU$12 million. Work on Bush Medivac WA is expected to be finished by June 2010.