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Sky is the limit for Mater health services

North Queensland is on the verge of a drone revolution which will take its healthcare to new heights.

A trial by Mater Pathology using drone technology to collect and deliver samples across South East Queensland could soon be expanded to regional centres like Townsville, slashing hours off the time it takes for samples to reach testing labs.

Mater is already at the forefront of drone technology in healthcare and will help launch a remotely operated network in SEQ in the coming months in partnership with leading Australian drone logistics company Swoop Aero.

Together they will operate Australia’s first drone-enabled pathology collection network.
Mater Pathology General Manager Deb Hornsby believes healthcare drones will soon be flying in reginal Queensland once Mater’s SEQ pilot program is established.

“The potential benefits of medical drone networks for areas like Townsville are very significant,” Ms Hornsby said.

Drones are safe, reliable and so much faster than cars and delivery vehicles – which means we save valuable time in getting pathology samples to labs and diagnosing patients.
Deb Hornsby, Mater Pathology General Manager

“Once our drone pathology network is tested and well-established, we plan to expand its use to include deliveries of medications to aged care homes.

“There are many other likely applications. For instance, we could use drones to transport specialist surgical equipment to smaller hospitals or quickly fly anti-venoms to remote farms to treat snakebite victims.

“We are even looking at using drones to transport breast milk from donor women in the community to newborns in hospitals who need breast milk."

There are major opportunities to improve health services with drones, especially for those regional and remote communities which rely on major centres like Townsville.
Deb Hornsby, Mater Pathology General Manager

Swoop Aero’s fleet of Kite aircraft can travel distances of more than 175 kilometres on a single battery charge, carrying up to 10 lbs of medical cargo.

Mater is working in tandem with Queensland Health on drone technology, with Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service key partners in the SEQ drone network, covering 400,000 square kilometres of the state.

Ms Hornsby believes Townsville and Cairns will be prime candidates for expansion of the Queensland drone network.

Mater Private Hospital Townsville Interim Executive Officer Stephanie Barwick said the drone project was a further example of Mater’s commitment to innovative healthcare.

“Mater’s vision is to empower communities to live better lives through improved health and wellbeing,” Ms Barwick said.

We are proud to be at the forefront of healthcare innovation in Queensland, allowing us to deliver timely, effective and quality healthcare to our communities.
Stephanie Barwick, Mater Private Hospital Townsville Interim Executive Officer

To find out more about the future of healthcare in Northern Australia, book your tickets to Future Townsville 2040 by visiting

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