Graphic: RFDS year in 2020
The Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS) has navigated 2020 with minimal disruption to its vital healthcare services despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to RFDS yearly patient and aviation statistics, patient transfers across the state were on par with 2019, with 10,678 patients being flown to emergency or specialist care between January 1 and December 1, 2020. Forty of these patients were transferred under COVID-19 precautions in Queensland.
While adhering to strict health guidelines during the height of the pandemic, the RFDS in Queensland drew on the years of trust and confidence it has built with the communities it serves to find ways to deliver primary health care services, including GP and nursing clinics to 94 locations across the state.
More than 25,000 patients accessed these services, from the far north on Cape York, to the south west corner at Birdsville, while more than 15,000 patients accessed health care via the RFDS telehealth service.
The RFDS Dental Service team, while unable to carry out dental consultations during parts of the pandemic-affected year, still delivered oral health care to 1,035 patients across 11 outback communities.
Meanwhile, RFDS mental health clinicians delivered 5,275 consultations across the Service’s three major mental health and wellbeing teams, despite having to shift to a telehealth first model during the height of the pandemic.
While delivering these services across Queensland, RFDS pilots flew a total of 21,542 hours over 7.4 million kilometres, landing at 224 locations.
RFDS Chief Executive Officer Meredith Staib said it was a challenging year for all healthcare providers.
“This year was unlike anything anyone could have predicted, and I am immensely proud of the way our front-line staff and the whole organisation responded to the pandemic,” Ms Staib said.
“Throughout the rapidly developing situation our key focus remained on protecting the communities we serve. We rapidly adapted our primary health care service delivery models to meet health safety standards while ensuring patients were still able to access the care they needed.
“This included shifting to telehealth where required, extending stays in community for some RFDS medical staff, heightening of staff PPE protocols, and innovative decontamination processes for our aircraft.
“The RFDS has managed to operate at almost full capacity throughout 2020 without major disruption to service delivery. We remained true to our promise to deliver the finest care to the furthest corner of the state.”