Graphic: Artist impressions of the planned expansion of the Royal Flying Doctor Service's base in Townsville.

The Flying Doctor reveals Townsville expansion plans

Date published

11 Dec 2019

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS) has committed to a major expansion of its Townsville operational base in a move that will boost health outcomes for thousands of regional and rural Queenslanders.

Mr Russell Postle, Board Chairman, RFDS (Queensland Section), said the RFDS was considering location options for the construction of a modern, new facility in Townsville to support a growing demand for its services.

Mr Postle said there were strong operational and strategic reasons to expand in Townsville.

“The Townsville Base is nearing capacity,” Mr Postle said. “Last year we flew 2,100 patients from Townsville with 1,500 of those from outside the Townsville Hospital and Health Service region.

“A modern new facility will handle more patients, more safely and efficiently, and deliver better health outcomes.

 “Currently there is no patient transfer facility at our Townsville Base where our patients can comfortably wait for onward transfer with either Queensland Ambulance Service or RFDS.

“We will fix that problem with a dedicated Patient Transfer Facility, as well as build new engineering and maintenance facilities, aircraft hangers, and an aviation and clinical training complex.

“We will also be investigating the feasibility of establishing a tourist Visitor Centre as part of the base development. We will be talking further with Townsville Council and local tourism bodies about a facility which would not only showcase the heritage of the RFDS, but also the local history of Townsville and the surrounding region, especially its contribution during World War 2.”

Meredith Staib, CEO, RFDS (Queensland Section), said the expansion was part of a new statewide infrastructure plan that would see Townsville and Brisbane as aviation service hubs for the vast rural and remote regions of Queensland.

“There has been significant growth in demand for our aeromedical retrieval services and inter-hospital transfers from our Townsville Base,” Ms Staib said.

“There is also a vital need to boost primary health care such as mobile dental services and mental health for people in remote locations including Indigenous communities.”

Ms Staib said while the cost of the proposed facility was not yet known, it would be a significant capital investment that would boost local jobs in construction and create new ongoing aeromedical, clinical and support roles.

“The RFDS in Townsville employs 32 staff including nurses, pilots, engineers, dental clinicians and support staff. This number will expand in line with an increase in services.

“We will also look to collaborate with other health, logistics and aviation emergency services and work with local academic and health service bodies in areas such as commercial training.”

Mr Peter Gartshore, Board member, RFDS (Queensland Section), and head of the Townsville Redevelopment Steering Group, said the RFDS would establish local working groups with members from across North Queensland to advise on the design and operation of the new facility.

“Input from RFDS patients, as well as staff, will be vital in the design of the new facility,” Mr Gartshore said.

“This will include the involvement in our working groups of people who understand the needs of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, who last year comprised more than 40% of our patients.

“We also have a strong buy local ethos and have contracted leading local advisory firm the Carey Group to develop a plan that maximises local involvement.”

Mr Gartshore said a final plan for the facility would be completed by mid-2020 and, with funding secured, the facility could be operational by late 2021.

The RFDS (Queensland Section) is one of the largest aeromedical organizations in the world, providing world-class primary health care and 24-hour emergency service to Queenslanders over an area of 1.73M square kilometers.

In North Queensland the RFDS delivers services from three aeromedical bases in Townsville, Mount Isa and Cairns.

Ends

RFDS media: 0407 595 014 or media@rfdsqld.com.au