Graphic: COVID Clinic
2021 was always going to be a big year for the Royal Flying Doctor Service but the COVID pandemic and subsequent vaccination rollout made it one of the busiest times in our history.
For the South Eastern Section, our year started offering respiratory clinics in remote regions and moved to providing transport for patient ‘episodes of care’ for confirmed or suspected COVID-19. In May we signed an agreement with the Federal Government to deliver COVID vaccinations and this project began in June.
What started as a roll-out in small communities in our traditional footprint became a widespread delivery that saw our teams travel to new regions including the Upper Hunter, New England and even Jervis Bay Territory on the NSW South Coast.
In six months, more than 31,000 doses of vaccination were delivered, ensuring that some of the most remote communities were protected against the highly-contagious and deadly Delta strain.
“The delivery of vaccinations became about serving communities that needed us the most, and saw the Flying Doctor need to recruit additional people to assist with the vaccinations,” RFDSSE General Manager Health Service Jenny Beach said.
“We capitalised on our ability to be agile and efficient, and in partnering with other organisations to ensure we could get as many people vaccinated as possible. It evolved from small clinics to pop-up mass vaccination clinics across the state. This saw us vaccinating hundreds and sometimes more than a thousand people in a day.
“Before the vaccination was readily available at pharmacies and GPs, our clinics were a great opportunity for people to protect themselves.”
The South Eastern Section will commence a service plan in January to rollout booster shots for those who had their initial vaccinations more than four months ago. This will go through to June or as required, concentrating on the Far West and North West regions of NSW. The Flying Doctor will also play a key role in the delivery of vaccinations for children aged 5 to 12, alongside the adult booster program.
“It was an incredible challenge for the RFDS to manage vaccine delivery with our ongoing provision of primary healthcare services and emergency retrievals. But as an organisation we were able to manage the unprecedented demand and we are very proud of the role we have played,” Ms Beach said.
“We don’t exactly know what 2022 will bring but the Flying Doctor will be there for our communities in whatever way we are needed. And we are grateful to our supporters who are with us on this journey, helping to keep us in the air and delivering vital services.”