TO THE RESCUE: Dr Harrington leads a rescue on Mt Tibrogargan circa 1995.
TO THE RESCUE: Dr Harrington leads a rescue on Mt Tibrogargan circa 1995. Contributed

Doctor strives to help others despite fighting own battles

ORDER of Australia Medal recipient Dr Anthony 'Tony' Harrington was sick of seeing people from remote communities suffer.

Up until the '80s, people in the Burnett and western regions could spend days on the road to receive treatment on the Coast or in Brisbane. That was until Dr Harrington helped establish LifeFlight at the Royal Brisbane Hospital in 1985 and the Emergency Medical Helicopter Outreach on the Sunshine Coast in 1989. The now 64-year-old said people didn't warm to the idea right away.

"People weren't keen - probably because of the cost and the risks," he said.

He was a senior trauma instructor with the Royal Australian College of Surgeons and along with Hayden Kenny and ambulance officer Peter LeLievre, commenced the first defibrillation program in Australia for cardiac arrest patients by professional lifeguards.

He was Nambour General Hospital's director of emergency medicine between 1989-2000, strongly advocated for the Scenario Based Learning Centre at Nambour General Hospital and dedicated much of his time to fundraising for local charities.

He even had an outdoor garden named in his honour back in 2011. One of the things Dr Harrington was proud of was the research he conducted into Intranasal Fentanyl - an analgesic now used all over the world - to "evaluate the tolerability and efficacy ... for children".

"We did the first research," he said.

"It's a little spray up the nose that works like an intravenous injection."

Despite dedicating much of his working life to helping others and providing his services to the health department, Mr Harrington struggled with his own health issues for more than 40 years.

"I've retired due to health reasons. I've lived for 40 years with insulin-dependent diabetes and had significant problems with my vision," he said.

He now works as a volunteer at the Woombye Library, works as a publicity officer, writes book reviews and plays tennis four to five times a week.

"It (my vision) limits my ability to play tennis," he said.

"But it's much easier than working."

Dr Harrington now lives with his wife Sue and is a proud father to three adult children.

He thanked his wife and children for their support throughout his career and dedicated his award to them and the emergency crews he worked alongside for so many years.

"During my working life as an emergency physician I was very fortunate to work together with a fantastic and dedicated group of doctors, nurses, ambulance officers, police officers, pilots, helicopter rescue crew, SES workers, lifeguards and administration officers," he said.

"Quality emergency health care can only occur when there is great teamwork between all the emergency service agencies.

"I would like to accept this award on behalf of all the emergency service workers that I have had the privilege to serve with over the last 40 years."