Graphic: COVID Vaccination NSW

New experience and new territories for RFDS

Date published

13 Oct 2021

In addition to the work the Royal Flying Doctor Service has been doing to provide vaccinations for our normal territory in regional and remote NSW, the pandemic has seen us head to a host of new locations to provide assistance.

It started with additional clinics across the Far West at the request of the Federal Government but has expanded since then to include the New England, Upper Hunter and even South Coast regions. 

While our regular clinics are based out of Broken Hill, these additional clinics have been organised from our Dubbo base. What started with small teams who flew and drove from Dubbo in early August to places like Walgett, Lightning Ridge and Grawin, it quickly expanded, requiring more staff and more vaccine.

COVID Vaccination NSW

This included some unique opportunities including giving vaccinations to shearers and shed hands at a shearing shed near Goodooga, using a hotel as a vaccination base at Armatree and visiting new territory for the RFDS at Jervis Bay. 

RFDSSE Health Services Manager Dubbo Sally Loughnan said the focus was on ensuring everyone had access to vaccinations. 

“Our teams have been fantastic and tireless and we have had great support from local health authorities and services. This is a vital service for communities who may have otherwise had limited access to the vaccine. Ultimately it keeps people healthy and out of our planes and out of hospitals,” Ms Loughnan said. 

Three big days in the Pilliga region in late August saw more than 1500 people vaccinated, before moving to other locations including the Upper Hunter, and then a shift to the New England region. 

At Gunnedah more than 2400 people were vaccinated in three days, before moving to smaller communities before large clinics at Moree and Tamworth.

This large-scale operation has required the RFDS to expand its workforce, with temporary staff recruited through advertisements, the media and word of mouth. The eager expanded workforce has come from retired health staff, medical students and even those who are employed but wanted to help in their spare time. This call to arms was welcomed by staff and a timely reminder of the enthusiasm to help the Flying Doctor when it asks. 

The smallest clinics have seen 20-30 people vaccinated, while the largest are closer to 1000-strong. However regardless of the size, these clinics are equally important when it comes to protecting our communities against COVID. 

The RFDS is expecting to deliver COVID vaccination clinics throughout the remainder of 2021. This service would not be possible without your continuing support.