Royal Flying Doctor Service Celebrates 90 Years Servicing the Community
8 January 2018 at 5:30 pm
Reducing the ongoing disparity in health outcomes between rural and metropolitan Australia will remain a key focus of The Royal Flying Doctor Service, as it celebrates its 90th year of operation in 2018.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) has provided medical care for remote communities in Australia since 1928, and recently topped the annual Charity Reputation Index for the seventh year in a row.
The RFDS director of communications, Lana Mitchell, told Pro Bono News the organisation had “come a long way in 90 years”.
“From a single leased Qantas plane in 1928, today we have a fleet of 69 planes and 115 road service vehicles. We have got 1,400 staff that deliver emergency medical and also primary health services,” Mitchell said.
“Just in the last year, we have serviced 330,000 Australians. We have grown from one borrowed plane, a borrowed pilot and one doctor to something quite significant.
“This is an opportunity to celebrate the individuals, the communities and townships we service. And it’s also a cause for celebration for the lives saved, the work accomplished and the dreams made possible in the country as a result of the RFDS.”
On average the RFDS aeromedically evacuates 101 people to a tertiary hospital, transports 193 patients by road for specialist care and delivers 48 GP and nurse clinics in rural and remote communities every day.
Despite advances in technology and increased connectivity between rural and city Australia, Mitchell said the RFDS was “very much” still needed.
“The barriers of overcoming distance is not going to go away. With technological advances, you still have the circumstances where people live in very remote areas, which are a long way away from GPs and hospitals, so I don’t see RFDS going anywhere anytime soon,” she said.
Mitchell said the disparity in health outcomes between rural and city Australia continued to be stark.
“As time continues, it becomes apparent that those in the city enjoy much better health outcomes than those who live in the bush,” she said.
“If you live in country Australia, you’ll get to see a doctor half as often as someone living in the city. You’ll get to see a dentist a third of the amount of times and a mental health specialist one fifth of the number of times.
“You are four times as likely to die in a car accident if you live in rural Australia rather than in the city. The RFDS has essentially made its ongoing mission and purpose of the organisation to bring healthcare to those who need it.”
She added that it would be “absolutely shocking” if the RFDS was longer around to service remote communities.
“We deliver 48 GP and nurse clinics around the country, every single day. It would be horrible [if we didn’t exist]. It would certainly make living and working and travelling in the bush virtually impossible,” she said.
“That’s why when the RFDS was formed in 1928, our founder John Flynn talked about it as being a mantle of safety – that was his vision.
“That’s very much the case today… If you weren’t able to see those medical professionals living in the outback, people wouldn’t be able to live there.”
Over the next 12 months, the RFDS has planned a number of events and activities including gala dinners, fundraising activities, an interactive timeline (with Australians encouraged to add photos and memories of their RFDS experiences) and a new Flying Doctor exhibit at the National Museum of Australia.
Mitchell said the RFDS would continue working to improve their service delivery to ensure the organisation thrives into its 100th year and beyond.
“We consider ourselves as a steward of this loved national institution and there’s an ongoing effort to review our services and footprint to see how we can improve our service delivery and vast health outcomes for those in the bush,” she said.
“This will continue very much a strong priority for us heading into the future. The RFDS was an institution created based on innovation and we want to continue to be innovative and continue to look at how we can improve our services and our outcomes for those living in the bush.”