University of Tasmania
140362 - mental health crises in rural and remote australia.pdf (1.22 MB)

Mental health crises in rural and remote Australia: an assessment of direct medical costs of air medical retrievals and the implications for the societal burden

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 16:50 authored by Gardiner, FW, Barbara de GraaffBarbara de Graaff, Bishop, L, Julie CampbellJulie Campbell, Mealing, S, Coleman, M
Objective: Adequate mental health service provision in rural and remote Australian communities is problematic because of the tyranny of distance. The Royal Flying Doctor Service provides air medical retrieval for people in rural and remote areas. The economic impact on both the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the public hospital system for mental health–related air medical retrievals is unknown. We aimed to estimate the direct medical costs associated with air medical retrievals and subsequent hospitalizations for mental and behavioral disorders for the 2017 calendar year.

Methods: All patients with a primary working diagnosis of International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th Version, Australian Modification F00 to F99 (mental and behavioral disorders) who underwent an air medical retrieval were included in this cost analysis. International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th Edition, Australian Modification codes were mapped to Australian Refined Diagnosis Related Group codes, with hospital costs applied from the National Hospital Cost Data Collection (2016/2017). All costs are reported in 2017 Australian dollars (AUDs).

Results: One hundred twenty-two primary evacuations and 926 interhospital transfers occurred with an in-flight diagnosis of F00 to F99, most commonly psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia and schizotypal disorders. The total direct medical costs were estimated to be AUD $20,070,527. Costs for primary evacuations accounted for 13% (AUD $2,611,260), with the majority of this associated with the subsequent hospital admission (AUD $1,770,139). Similarly, the majority of the costs associated with interhospital transfers (total costs = AUD $17,459,267) were also related to hospital costs (AUD $13,569,187).

Conclusion: Direct medical costs associated with air medical retrievals for people experiencing a mental health crisis are substantial. The majority of costs are associated with hospital admission and treatment; however, the indirect (loss of productivity) and intangible (quality of life) costs are likely to be far greater.


Publication title

Air Medical Journal










Menzies Institute for Medical Research


Mosby, Inc.

Place of publication

United States

Rights statement

Copyright 2020 Air Medical Journal Associates

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Evaluation of health and support services not elsewhere classified; Mental health services

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