19 March 2024

Flying Doctor gets government funding boost to deliver extra regional and remote services

| Andrew McLaughlin
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RFDS plane

The Federal Government and corporate and private donations fund the RFDS. Photo: RFDS.

The Federal Government has provided an extra $30 million in funding to the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) to allow the organisation to expand its services.

The funding will go towards providing more critical emergency aeromedical evacuations when and where they are needed, as well as primary health clinics, dental care and mental health services.

Some $1 million of the funding has been drawn from the federally funded Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program to start a permanent healthcare clinic in the remote town of William Creek, South Australia.

The first-of-a-kind dedicated virtual health hub was opened on 15 March and is equipped to provide RFDS fly-in teams with a state-of-the-art space to care for patients and to consult by video link when needed.

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RFDS South Australia and Northern Territory chair Peter de Cure said the virtual emergency centre enables telehealth consultation, diagnosis, and treatment without health professionals physically being in the room.

“In the event of an emergency, first responders will be able to use telehealth technology to instantly contact on-call RFDS doctors,” he said.

“With an on-site AED and remote RFDS Medical Chest, the on-call doctor can advise the local medical chest custodian of immediate life-saving medications and care while patients wait in a safe and secure treatment room for an RFDS aeromedical crew to arrive.

“Historically, RFDS teams have consulted with patients at the William Creek Hotel or in the attached tourist accommodation where there are no fixed medical provisions,” Mr de Cure added.

“We now have a fit-for-purpose space where our doctors, nurses and even our oral health team, physiotherapist and other allied health clinicians can set up full-scale clinics.”

William Creek remote hub

Health Minister Mark Butler opened the William Creek remote health hub on 15 March. Photo: RFDS.

The additional funding comes on top of the $1 billion the government has already committed to the RFDS over 10 years. The extra funding will be provided over two financial years to 30 June 2025.

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said the government is ensuring everyone can get health care, whether they live in the inner suburbs or the most remote outback town.

“Since its inception almost 100 years ago, the RFDS has always strived to provide first-class health and emergency services to people in the bush,” Mr Butler said.

“Anyone who has known the relief of the RFDS arriving after a farming accident, a car crash on a dusty track, or a heart attack at a sheep station will appreciate how important this extra funding is.”

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Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories Kristy McBain said the RFDS provides vital services in regional, rural and remote Australia.

“[This] is why the government has partnered with them and invested $1 million to get this purpose-built clinic in outback South Australia off the ground,” she said.

“From primary health consultations to an emergency space for critically ill patients awaiting transfer to a major hospital, these enhanced services will provide an added level of comfort to locals and will play a key role in providing confidence to thousands of tourists that visit the local area each year.

“Having visited William Creek last year ahead of the build, it’s fantastic to see this work now complete – because this remote community will no longer need to travel two hours to their nearest health service.”

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