COVID-19: Message from the Chief Executive

Date published

30 Mar 2020

The dedicated team at RFDS Central Operations (serving SA/NT) continues to deliver 24-hour emergency aeromedical and essential primary health care services through these unprecedented times.

I want to start by acknowledging the challenging and uncertain times ahead for all of us as we deal with Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). I also want to reaffirm our steadfast commitment to the safety and wellbeing of rural and remote South Australians and Territorians, together with our workforce, our service-delivery partners, our supporters and the broader community.

Over the past week – and again in the past 24 hours – Governments and health authorities have escalated our nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Taking all precautions and actions necessary to keep everyone safe and to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community is changing how your Flying Doctor is taking the finest care to the furthest corners, but it is not altering our commitment to doing so.

What we are doing to assist

Our workforce has been preparing for the entry of COVID-19 into Australia since January. The RFDS routinely treats patients with infectious diseases, and we have already safely transported COVID-19 patients, and will continue to do so over the weeks and months ahead.

COVID-19 will present great resource challenges in terms of forecast volumes of patients needing care, combined with ensuring that we have the frontline workforce and resources available to safely deliver our range of 24/7 emergency aeromedical and essential primary health care services.

We have actioned our Business Continuity Plan, and will continue to work closely with the Commonwealth and State/Territory Departments of Health in ensuring we can respond accordingly to this pandemic and deploy RFDS resources to outbreak areas – if and when they are needed.

As part of our COVID-19 pandemic response, RFDS Central Operations is/has:

  • established our Incident Management Team comprising our most highly trained medical, nursing, aviation, operations and management team;
  • placed our aeromedical bases into lock-down to all non-essential visitors, and relocated our non-operational workforce to working from home; 
  • monitoring the latest guidance in relation to procedures for the assessment, treatment and movement of people with COVID-19;
  • continuously training of our frontline workforce in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and specific COVID-19 cleaning procedures;
  • been pre-screening our workforce, as well all patients/visitors to our remote health clinics to reduce the risk of inadvertent exposure;
  • following guidance on health care worker’s quarantine and isolation requirements in line with our respective State/Territory health authorities; and
  • expanding our use of online technologies to deliver our mental health and wellbeing services to keep our remote patients connected with us, and each other.

Delivery of our Services

Despite these unprecedented times, delivery of essential health services continues, including: 

  • 24/7 aeromedical evacuations from outback communities or country hospitals;
  • 24/7 emergency telehealth consultations with our on-call Doctors; 
  • scheduled ‘fly-in’ primary health clinics to remote communities and stations;
  • videoconference consultations with the Mental Health & Wellbeing Team; 
  • operation of our Remote Area Nurse (RAN) clinics at Andamooka, Marla and Marree; and
  • cultural and social support for Indigenous patients by our Aboriginal Health Coordinator.

Furthermore, our teams are assisting with national awareness effort and community education of best practice prevention, identification and pre-screening strategies to help protect our remote communities from the spread of the virus.

On this, we are advising people in the communities we serve, if they are feeling unwell and suspect they have been exposed to COVID-19, to call ahead and let us know so we can take the appropriate measures to safeguard our staff and other patients.

Click here for the latest update on RFDS services and COVID-19 health and wellbeing information. I encourage you to take the time to familiarise yourself with COVID-19, and please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

As always, if you or someone is seriously ill, please call our 24/7 emergency numbers and ask to speak to the on-call Doctor.

In closing, we reflect on the privilege we hold at the RFDS, in being able to serve the community at this time when they need us the most.

Tony Vaughan ASM
Chief Executive
RFDS Central Operations