Chair Dr Saranne Cooke

A message from our Chair

Date published

31 Jan 2023

This is my first message to you as Chair of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (South Eastern Section) and it is an honour to hold such a prestigious position.

I joined the board of the RFDS in 2018 and over the last four years have focused my efforts on ensuring the Flying Doctor is able to meet the current and future needs of the communities of rural and remote Australia.

The work of the RFDS is famous, and without it, people in some of the most isolated parts of our country would not have access to high quality healthcare. I am excited about seeing it grow and progress.

I would like to thank David Lyle, who acted as President for the last six months, after the departure of Alex Scamps and is now Deputy Chair. David and I have worked very closely together during this time and we look forward to continuing to work together with the full board in our governing roles.

I would also like to recognise the achievements of Joan Treweeke, who announced her retirement from the board at the November Annual General Meeting after 26 incredible years of service. Her knowledge, passion and commitment will be missed.

We are excited about the new board members who have joined recently including Andrew Monaghan, Amy Cooper and John Baird and look forward to their contributions.

In November I had the privilege of attending the Royal Flying Doctor Service (South Eastern Section) Year in Review. This event is an opportunity to reflect on the incredible work that has taken place throughout the year.

The organisation started the year providing COVID vaccinations to communities. After dedicating so much of late-2021 to providing this protection, the focus moved to providing boosters for adults and primary doses for children aged 5-11.

By mid-year work in the vaccination space had eased and there was a focus on returning to full face-to-face services, ensuring that the needs in primary health, dental, and mental health and alcohol and other drugs were met.

The focus on primary healthcare continues and this year the Flying Doctor expanded into the northwest corridor of NSW, providing clinics at communities including Grawin, Hebel, Weilmoringle, Enngonia and Nymagee.

This focus on helping people stay well, as well as being available in emergencies, is a commitment to improve the health outcomes of people in remote areas, who are statistically far more likely to suffer chronic illness, more likely to end up in a hospital as the result of a significant health problem.

We also expanded our emergency retrieval and non-emergency patient transport capabilities by introducing additional shifts at Broken Hill and Bankstown respectively. This will ensure we can continue to meet demand in these important sectors.

From a tourism perspective, there was great news with the Broken Hill Visitor Experience selected for a $5.5 million grant from the NSW Government’s Regional Tourism Activation Fund. This grant will transform the attraction into a state-of-the art destination that will ensure the history of the RFDS continues to be shared and helps attract tourists to the Broken Hill region. Work has already begun and will continue into the new year.

Additionally, just last month the Flying Doctor announced it had stepped in to save two GP Clinics at Gilgandra and Warren from closure, providing certainty to residents and furthering our commitment to primary healthcare.

With so many exciting projects taking place, 2022 was another big year for the service and we look forward to 2023 being another great year.

Dr Saranne Cooke Chair, Royal Flying Doctor Service (South Eastern Section)