RFDS Research: COVID-19 activity and surge modelling for rural and remote Australia

Date published

21 May 2020

A newly published research paper reviews RFDS COVID-19 patient transport data since February 2020, and includes modelling for anticipated rural and remote hot spots, as part of surge preparation within the national health crisis.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) did the first aeromedical retrieval for confirmed COVID-19 within Australia. This included transporting patients in early Feb-2020 and has since grown to almost 400 patients as of mid-May 2020. Based on international reporting it was expected that COVID-19 cases would increase in the first wave, or subsequent waves or hot spots.

To ensure the RFDS has the capacity to meet surge demand of suspected and confirmed cases throughout Australia the research paper specifically reviewed the characteristics of patients transported by the RFDS by air or road for confirmed or suspected COVID-19. Without this information, subsequent response planning would have been very difficult.

Using respiratory trends of 9624 patients from the previous 4 years, we designed and validated an interactive surge capacity planning decision support tool. Our modeling showed that we are able to meet demand on current activity, however if COVID-19 cases increase by n=8 priority 1 and n=4 priority 2 patients per day, we would need to increase our serviceable aircraft (which we can do by moving needed fleet around the country).

By knowing this information, we were able to plan the additional provision of clinicians, engineers, pilots, and support personal.  Furthermore, we were able to surge plan for the additional usage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and specifically the establishment of an RFDS national stockpile in Victoria.

By having this information available early, we were able to ensure the RFDS was accessible to all Australians during this COVID-19 pandemic.