Ms FORREST (Murchison) - When I first received a communication from an organisation called Bloodbikes Australia, I wondered what they were and what they did. The Australian Bloodbikes service is a volunteer group of motorcyclists nationwide, with the express purpose of transporting blood and medical supplies to and from areas where they are required, free of charge.
The service was established in 2019 and it already has some 460 volunteers nationwide. It has completed more than 4000 urgent transports since its inception. There are 34 volunteers located here in Tasmania, of which 19 are fully qualified and active within the state and another 15 riders are finalising their training. Within Tasmania, Bloodbikes has provided services to the District Nurses in Hobart and Launceston, the Cancer Council, North West Regional Hospital, Mersey Community Hospital, Deloraine Community Hospital and most recently, Launceston General Hospital, Bicheno and Swansea pharmacies.
The group is made up of independent volunteers operating under the name of Bloodbikes Australia, with a specific set of rules which form the individual agreements with a collective commitment to each other and to the healthcare providers for whom they volunteer. What makes Bloodbikes riders unique is that they are highly-experienced motorcyclists with literally years of on-bike riding experience, coupled with a nationally recognised certificate in transporting blood. They are nimble, fit for purpose and can provide a quick response in urgent times from people who absolutely love their job. Each volunteer Bloodbikes rider must obey all road rules and have a full licence and ride a motorcycle of at least 650ccs in size. This ensures loads can be safely stowed within suitable panniers to meet the regulations for transporting blood products. Riders are qualified in handling blood products, which taxi operators are not. The idea was inspired by the Bloodbikes movement in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Its Australian founder, Peter Davis, says:
I had a mate Volunteering for Bloodbikes Scotland and thought, what a great idea, a chance to do what I love, riding motorcycles, and doing some good.
Bloodbikes now provides national coverage to healthcare professionals in both the public and private sectors, with the aim of providing quality care outcomes for patients and free up valuable resources such as ambulances, police and healthcare staff by providing a last resort transport service. They provide a service that operates when urgently needed, day or night, and bypasses the costly expense of taxis or other priority general courier services. Importantly, Bloodbikes does not compete with contracts or employment arrangements. It exists for situations where services are not available as some tests, suppliers and treatments simply cannot wait. As I said, they provide a last resort service.
The services provided by Bloodbikes Australia are not limited and do not require minimum quantities. They just need to meet the criteria of being urgently needed and being required now as a last resort measure.
I believe there are a number of areas where the service could be better utilised, despite all that they do, there are other areas, they could expand beyond just carting blood and blood products. They could be used within the Community Rapid Response teams to provide support to medical professionals with urgent courier options for at-home patients. They could be used for urgent pharmacy runs between townships for locally depleted stocks; for specialised medication transfers; urgent samples for pathology units when scheduled services are delayed or have been forgotten to be picked up in time-sensitive samples; deliveries between hospitals of blood for transfusions where blood stocks or plasma are not normally kept in great quantities, particularly in our rural hospitals; for urgent restocks of items or medications for ambulances in rural or remote areas of the state, allowing paramedics to stay on the road; for transporting tests or tissues from airports to hospitals, or vice versa.
They could do medication runs to homes for discharged patients, freeing up hospital beds or medications runs to immune-suppressed patients to avoid the need to leave home to collect medication. They could return personal items left by discharged patients in healthcare facilities, or collecting from home personal items for patients who have been admitted to health facilities or transferred to other health facilities. The collection of deliveries of medical equipment and devices or other items for nursing homes. They could also provide urgent transfer of seldomly used surgical equipment from one hospital to another.
These are just some of the opportunities that have been identified where Bloodbikes could be better utilised through our health system in Tasmania. Their motto is, 'if it fits on a bike, we will take it'. Bloodbikes would like to broaden their services to the wider community and to be recognised as a trusted health support service here in Tasmania. They are seeking support in establishing pathways into the Tasmanian health service, to enable health professionals to access this urgent on-call system for things that simply cannot wait.
I commend the volunteers and thank them sincerely for the work they love to do, to ride their bikes and do what they can to provide an important and free service throughout our state.