About PIPER Paediatric

  • PIPER-Paediatrics retrieves critically ill children from hospitals throughout Victoria, Tasmania, and southern New South Wales for life-saving treatment to the Royal Children's Hospital and to Monash Medical Centre in Melbourne.

    PIPER-Paediatrics operates out of the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit of the Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne. PIPER brings the highly specialized, world-class resources of paediatric intensive care to critically ill children in Victoria and beyond providing safe, expert, emergency inter-hospital retrieval to a paediatric intensive care unit.

    An equally vital part of PIPER activity is the provision of specialist advice to doctors, nurses, and ambulance personnel on the resuscitation of severely ill children.


    PIPER Paediatrics is staffed by the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) of the Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne. This allows clinical advice and treatment during retrieval to be given by experienced and highly specialised teams. PICU thus comes to the child before the child can be moved to the PICU.


    PIPER Paediatrics leadership team consists of a medical director and a senior nurse clinician. They are supported by an administrator. Daily clinical operations are lead by PIPER Paediatrics Duty Consultants who are senior medical specialists in paediatric intensive care.

    Transport staff

    Responsibility for clinical advice and retrieval operations lies with the Duty PIPER Consultant, supervising the retrieval teams. All retrievals are performed by a PICU doctor and a PETS nurse or by a PICU doctor and a paramedic. Medical staff are either experienced registrars (>4 years training in paediatrics, intensive care, anaesthesia or emergency medicine) with extra training in retrieval medicine or, in some highly complex retrievals such as transport on extracorporeal life-support (ECMO), they are senior ICU specialists from the RCH PICU.

    PIPER nurses are very experienced nursing staff with a strong background in looking after critically ill children as well as in retrieval nursing. They have undertaken a 1-year post-graduate specialist course in PICU nursing, attended a PIPER Workshop, Air Ambulance Orientation, and completed a Competency Package. Many nurses have also completed the Introduction to Aeromedical Retrieval Course through Monash University and the Advanced Paediatric Life Support (APLS) Course.

    PETS history

    Victoria has an area of 227,600 square km (87,884 square miles, roughly the size of the United Kingdom) and a population of 5.4 million, of whom 4 million live in greater Melbourne. 1.2 million of the 5 million are children (<17 years). Victorian PETS covers all of Victoria, southern New South Wales and northern Tasmania. The total population of this area is about 6 million (approx. 1.5 million children), living within 600 km of the base of operations. On occasion, PETS may also retrieve children from other paediatric ICUs in Australia for treatment available only at the RCH Melbourne.

    Tertiary paediatric services in Victoria are located at the Royal Children's Hospital (RCH) and at Monash Medical Centre (MMC), both in Melbourne. Large general hospitals are located in regional cities and in central and suburban Melbourne. Many of these have paediatric departments and paediatric wards, with senior and junior paediatric medical staff, but not tertiary paediatric services. Smaller towns around the state usually lack specialist paediatric facilities; hospitals in these towns are staffed by general practitioners.

    A paediatric emergency transport service, based at the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit of the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, subsequently began operations in 1979, retrieving 46 patients in that year. In 2011, PETS received over 1000 phone referrals and retrieved more than 450 critically ill children.