Flying Doctor marks 20 years of Base operations at Dubbo

Date published

16 Mar 2021

Despite challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dubbo Base has gone from strength to strength since operations began. We look back over the two decades since the official opening of the aeromedical centre in 2001.

Member for the seat of Dubbo, the Hon Dugald Saunders MP and Mayor of the Dubbo Region, Ben Shields, joined RFDSSE board members

Operational since 1999, the RFDS Dubbo Base hangar brought the Flying Doctor “mantle of safety” to the Western Plains of New South Wales. In 2021, we look back fondly on the evolution of the Dubbo Base and the impact it has had on the
health of outback communities.

On 24 February, Member for the seat of Dubbo, the Hon Dugald Saunders MP and Mayor of the Dubbo Region, Ben Shields, joined RFDSSE board members, Base staff, past patients, local support groups and suppliers at a small gathering to mark the anniversary
of the Dubbo aeromedical facility’s official opening.

“I am proud to reflect on two decades of health services delivered to our communities such as inter-hospital patient transfers, emergency retrievals, blood storage, and dental services” Royal Flying Doctor Service (South Eastern Section) CEO Greg Sam said.

The Dubbo Base has grown and developed over the years, including the opening of an Aeromedical Terminal and hangar next to the Dubbo Base. This was developed by Dubbo Regional Council and the Dubbo City Regional Airport to provide an all-weather shelter for aircraft and patients.

In 2019, the RFDS Visitor Experience was opened as part of the Dubbo Base redevelopment. The Visitor Experience offers an interactive exploration of the world of the Flying Doctor for people of all ages. 

Along with the Visitor Experience came a brand-new Flight Training simulator, the first in the Flying Doctor’s 93-year history, and a medical and health training area featuring high tech simulation equipment. These facilities offer state of the art training to RFDSSE pilots and clinicians, enabling them to remain on the cutting edge of innovation in health care and aviation. The Flight Training simulator was made possible through a gift in a Will from one of our generous supporters, and the medical and training area through a signicant donation from a longstanding and committed donor.

Karen Barlow and Kerry Lee Hassan

“Two decades of Base operations have flown by, and Dubbo has evolved along with us. It has been amazing to see,” Mr Sam said.

Karen Barlow and Kerry Lee Hassan are among the Dubbo Base’s longest-serving staff. Karen said she has seen the Base “come a very long way” since she started 20 years ago when she worked with a team of just three flight nurses and a single aircraft between them.

"Today the RFDS Dubbo Base employs over 100 people, we have 13 flight nurses, 22 doctors, 18 pilots, three dentists, and other operations, administrative and tourism staff,” Ms Barlow said.

“In the last year alone, the Base assisted with 1,670 patient transfers, 4,032 landings, and 1,279,575 kilometres flown,” Ms Barlow said.

The Dubbo Support Group and Rotary Club of Dubbo South are major local support groups behind Flying Doctor Dubbo Base operations and initially campaigned for the establishment of the Dubbo Base. All these years on, these groups continue to provide essential financial and volunteer support.

“We want to sincerely thank our volunteers and support groups for their dedication and determination to enliven the Dubbo Base with a clear vision for the future of Dubbo,” Mr Sam said.