Graphic: CT Rochester
To celebrate the expansion of the Flying Doctor Community Transport service into Rochester, the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) Victoria and Rochester and Elmore District Health Service (REDHS) held a special launch event on Monday 22 March.
The event brought together supporters and the broader Rochester community, with the Member for Murray Plains, Hon Peter Walsh MP, joining RFDS Victoria Chief Executive Scott Chapman, RFDS Victoria Chair Denis Henry and REDHS CEO Karen Laing all delivering speeches. A panel discussion also took place, with volunteer driver Paul Butler, program coordinator Erin Foster and client Eileen Magner providing insight into how the service has already positively impacted the local community.
Flying Doctor Community Transport provides eligible clients with free transport to health appointments and social support group sessions. The service recognises that people in rural communities can face additional barriers to access health care due to a geographically spread population and limited transport options. For some people, a deteriorating health concern or simple injury can make it impossible to drive at all.
“The greatest cost to our health system is missed appointments,” Mr Chapman told ABC radio. “For the people who are having to go for cancer treatments or other things, they rely on their family to have to take a day off and come up from Melbourne to get them there, and so people just miss appointments. This service is designed to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Rochester is the second Victorian community to partner with RFDS for this service, which has been successfully running in Heathcote since 2018. The service started in a phased approached in Rochester back in late January, and has quickly built up the service to seven active volunteer drivers and 55 registered clients, and has completed 280 trips already.
“This is more than just a service for physical health; it also fosters great social health and connectivity which is important for community health,” says Mr Scott Chapman. “We are delighted to extend this service to the broader Rochester community; confident that the local support and excellent relationship we have with REDHS will make it a great success.”
“Having the option of being picked up and driven to their appointments will be invaluable for many in our community – otherwise they often neglect their own health,” says Ms Laing. “This will be a fabulous service for the community and shows that by working in partnership we can achieve much more than we could alone.”
Flying Doctor Community Transport in Rochester is proudly supported by Bendigo Bank, the Rotary Club of Echuca Moama and the Rochester Lions Club, and relies on the generosity of volunteer drivers.
“When you meet the volunteers, they’re in their uniform with Royal Flying Doctor Service on it, they’re very proud of that, as we all are of RFDS across Australia. And the training and the comradery, and the value that they’re providing, it’s just heart-warming to see and be a part of,” says Mr Chapman.
“As other communities come on board and make contact with us, and we’re working with the Commonwealth Government to see if there’s some funding to roll this out even further beyond just the capacity of the local community to raise funds as well.”
The launch event was a great success, and a testament to the strong partnership that exists between RFDS Victoria and REDHS. To find out more about this service, contact the Community Transport team on 1300 887 678 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.