Graphic: Ruth Sandow
Over the course of 2018 we heard a great deal about the inspirational development of an aeromedical service in outback Australia 90 years ago, and celebrated the achievements of that service in many ways.
For me there were two particular highlights: the visit to the Dubbo Base by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and the fact that the AGM was held in Broken Hill. It seemed so fitting that for the 90th anniversary AGM we returned to our roots in the bush.
Today, the Royal Flying Doctor Service South Eastern Section continues to be innovative, developing new strategies and using modern technologies to better provide healthcare for our network.
For example, Telehealth, a way of conducting remote medical consultations, is an area where we’re using technology to expand our service and deliver medical care to more people in remote and rural locations.
With satellite communication, we’re able to transmit real-time images to a specialist doctor to assist diagnostically in a range of conditions from emergency trauma to mental health.
Modernising our fleet of aircraft has also been an important priority.
As of the end of last year, four new aircraft joined our fleet. To be based in Dubbo and Broken Hill, they’re modern Beechcraft Kingcraft B350 aircraft with little in common with the first aeromedical flight of the Flying Doctor in a borrowed De Havilland DH 50!
Our facilities too, are going through major revitalisation.
At the Dubbo Base, the new multipurpose redevelopment includes a patient flow unit to assist in the transfer of patients between aircraft and ambulance, and training facilities for pilots, nurses and doctors. And later this year a state-of-the-art interactive tourism centre will open.
The team at Broken Hill has a new air-conditioned aircraft maintenance hangar, and plans are underway to transform the old hangar into a museum space.
Innovative programs are also quickly taking shape in the Service, especially in the mental health and ‘alcohol and other drugs’ areas. These include the employment of new staff in our communities, from trainees and peer support workers through to engagement and clinical roles.
Also, wellness centres, to be located in Broken Hill and Dubbo, are proposed new additions to the Service. Early plans include to have comprehensive centres where staff can support people from right across the network.
We’re pleased to report that the South Eastern Section recently employed two Aboriginal health workers to work in the areas of chronic disease management and prevention, as well as an Aboriginal health practitioner specialising in maternal and family health. These services provide much needed support for some of our most at-risk and vulnerable community members.
There have certainly been many advancements within the RFDS over the past 90 years, today we move forward into another era believing, I am sure, that John Flynn would be well pleased.
I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to you, our generous and loyal donors, and also to wish you a happy New Year. I hope that 2019 brings rain to your patch.
President, RFDS SE Section