Graphic: COVID 19: Responding to need
As an essential service and part of Australia’s larger health system, the RFDS continues to provide vital emergency medical and primary health care services to rural and remote Australia. These services are delivered by air, by road and through technology systems such as telehealth. The RFDS deals with infectious diseases as a routine however COVID-19 presents new challenges in terms of potential volumes of patients needing care.
Between 02 February 2020 and 11 Sept 2020 the RFDS has conducted 1,578 patient episodes of care for confirmed or suspected COVID-19. There have been 1,514 inter-hospital transfers and 64 primary evacuations. All patients were either confirmed or strongly suspected of having COVID-19.
A total of 1,288 transfers have occurred within Victoria (82% of the total figure) and have been done by road ambulance. There is a continued heavy patient demand in Victoria with an average of 20 transportations every day within the locked-down Victorian state.
In addition to the regular primary health clinics the RFDS has also conducted primary healthcare COVID-19 support, including conducting 41 respiratory clinics in remote communities in NSW and Victoria such as Wilcannia, Murray Downs, Ivanhoe, Tibooburra, White Cliffs and Euston, servicing 119 patients.
As pathology services are not available in most areas the RFDS serves if a patient has symptoms of COVID-19 and meets the criteria for testing (though testing results may not yet have been received), the patient is treated and transported as a suspected COVID-19 case. This includes primary evacuation cases, inter-hospital transfer of patients from rural/remote areas to inner-regional or major city areas for isolation/hospital care in metro hospitals, and high-risk patients from hospital care to home-based isolation.
We are closely working with Federal/State Health Departments and health/aviation industries for surge demand in rural and remote Australia and our teams in Victoria are deeply involved in ongoing efforts in that state.
If you have questions about what the Corona Virus COVID-19 is, what the symptoms are, how it spreads, or what local state restrictions mean for you personally, you can learn more at the Department of Health website and Healthdirect Australia website. The Healthdirect Australia Pregnancy, Birth and Baby website also includes COVID-19 information for pregnancy and parenting and their Maternal Child Health Nurses are equipped for COVID-19 questions from anxious parents, via video call or phone 1800 882 436.
If you are unsure on what COVID restrictions are in your state or territory, you can get the latest information using the COVID Restriction Checker to find out what you can or can't do.
The RFDS has factsheets on prevention, symptoms and what to do if you feel you may have COVID-19. These can be downloaded below.
First Nations Peoples
The National Justice Project, National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) and UTS Jumbunna have worked together to clarify and communicate restrictions relating to COVID-19 activities for First Nations people living in remote communities across the country to ensure that those living in these communities are aware of their rights under the lockdown measures, as they currently stand.
Their series of factsheets summarise the various public health directions issued as a result of the pandemic in each State and Territory and address the stricter measures being imposed on Indigenous Australians living in remote communities, including
- Caring for Elders
- Community events including Sorry business and funerals
- Restricted movement in and out of remote communities
- Police enforcement powers and penalties and how best to respond to police requests