Flying Doctor commits to rural Queensland

Date published

26 Mar 2020

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS) is taking proactive measures to ensure Queenslanders living in regional, rural and remote parts of the state continue to receive vital healthcare services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

RFDS (Queensland Section) Chief Executive Officer Meredith Staib said the organisation has made extensive preparations and precautions for its staff and patients in dealing with the ongoing situation.

She said these measures would also evolve as the medical scenario surrounding the pandemic changed.

“Despite the challenging circumstances, we will continue to provide vital emergency medical and primary health care services for regional, rural and remote Queenslanders,” Ms Staib said.

“We are ready to respond as the situation evolves. It is important to remember that this is a rapidly changing situation so what we know today could be different tomorrow.

“But I’m very proud of the way that the RFDS team has responded to this matter – both with respect to the measures taken to protect the health and well-being of our staff but also to ensure the continuity of our vital healthcare service,” she said.

Ms Staib said the RFDS had been working on its response to the COVID-19 matters for months.

“Since January, the organisation has made extensive preparations and put into place precautions to ensure we continue to be there for those who need us most,” Ms Staib said.

“We would like to assure all Queenslanders that we are committed to support the health of the communities we serve and our team members that serve them.

“The RFDS is not immune to the ramifications this pandemic brings. However, just as always, we will be doing everything we can to make sure regional, rural and remote Queenslanders continue to have access to the healthcare services they need throughout this crisis.”

Ms Staib expected that the RFDS would be required to move more people for clinical reasons relating to the virus and emphasized that the organisation was well prepared to handle COVID-19 patients.

“As part of Australia’s larger health system, the RFDS deals with infectious diseases all the time”, she said.

“COVID-19 presents challenges in terms of potential volumes of patients needing care, however we are working closely with federal and state health departments in preparation for more cases in the coming weeks and months.

“Our first line of defense is simply trying to keep our frontline staff clear of the virus. In order to do this, we are following simple procedures such as social distancing to the extent that is possible, including the use of personal protection equipment.

“We are also exploring alternative flying arrangements, such as nurse or doctor only flights, and looking at the possibility of our primary health care nurses escorting patients on low acuity clinical flights.”
Further to its aeromedical operations, the RFDS in Queensland is also advising people accessing its remote primary health care clinics to consider the wellbeing of other community members before attending.

“We are advising people in the regions we serve, if they are feeling unwell, to call ahead and let us know so we can take the appropriate measures to safeguard our staff and other patients,” Ms Staib said.

“This might include giving them directions about which entrance to use, and ensuring our staff have the PPE ready beforehand.

“We must ensure everyone, including our staff and our patients are cared for in a safe and responsible manner, regardless of where we are delivering our health care services.”

As part of its COVID-19 pandemic response, the RFDS (Queensland Section) has:
- established a COVID-19 taskforce comprised of the Service’s most highly trained medical, nursing and management team.
- continuously monitored the latest guidance in relation to the use of personal protective equipment for transfer or treatment of people with COVID-19.
- ensured its already highly skilled frontline staff continue to have regular training, including in the use of personal protective equipment and best practice in relation to COVID-19.
- pre-screened all clinic attendees to reduce the risk of inadvertent exposure to communities.
- developed a business continuity plan that is continually revised and updated to support its continued delivery of service to regional communities.
- followed guidance on the management of health care worker’s quarantine and isolation requirements in line with dynamic Queensland Health protocol. We also have additional levels of control in place with respect to protecting the remote communities we serve.