Graphic: Flying Doctor to establish health hub at William Creek
The Royal Flying Doctor Service is set to establish a permanent healthcare clinic in the South Australian outback tourism town of William Creek.
SA’s Outback Communities Authority, through the Federal Government’s Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program, has kickstarted the project with a $1 million funding injection, in response to a call for support from the local community and surrounds.
The RFDS Board has endorsed the use of fundraising and community donations to offset the remainder of the project cost, beyond the $1 million funding.
The RFDS lands at William Creek around 30 times a year to conduct fly-in community health clinics and airlift critically ill patients to major hospitals at all hours of the day and night.
Currently, RFDS teams consult with patients at the local hotel where there are no fixed medical provisions. The new William Creek Community Health Service will provide a fully equipped medical space that meets the National Safety & Quality Health Standards, for RFDS teams to conduct its regular fly-in primary health consultations and increase its capability to introduce oral health and other allied health services.
The community will also be able to access the clinic to accommodate patients awaiting urgent aeromedical transfer.
While unstaffed outside of fly-in clinic hours, the facility will house innovative digital health technology, including built-in camera features and Starlink internet, connecting patients with instant RFDS Doctor consultation and diagnosis – and in the event of an emergency, essential first responder advice.
RFDS Central Operations Chief Executive Tony Vaughan ASM said the William Creek Community Health Service would include two major multi-functional spaces for primary health and emergency care.
“When RFDS teams currently consult with local patients, they do so at the William Creek Hotel or in the attached tourist accommodation. These spaces have no fixed medical provisions," he said.
“The William Creek Community Health Service will not only provide a medically-equipped hub for our regular fly-in RFDS clinics, but also a devoted area the community can access in medical emergencies to contact the RFDS directly.
“In the event of an emergency, first responders will be able to use telehealth technology to instantly contact on-call RFDS doctors, while patients wait in a safe and secure environment for an RFDS crew to arrive.
“This modern facility will revolutionise health care for residents of William Creek, neighbouring stations and the thousands of travellers who make their way along the remote Oodnadatta Track."
The new RFDS William Creek Community Health Service will use a cost-effective modular and prefabricated construction to create a purpose-designed health clinic, featuring:
- a multi-functional patient care space for the RFDS’s monthly fly-in GP, mental health, and allied health consultations including oral health;
- an emergency space with telehealth communication technology, available to community members in medical emergencies to contact the RFDS;
- a community space including a waiting area and accessible toilet, and;
- direct access to the William Creek Airport for RFDS aeromedical retrieval crews.
As the closest town to Lake Eyre North and the gateway to the Simpson Desert, William Creek is a hub for nearby station communities and welcomes more than 26,000 tourists a year travelling the Oodnadatta Track.
Federal Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories, Kristy McBain said the importance of having access to healthcare facilities in the region could not be overstated.
“Your postcode shouldn’t determine whether you have access to health care, which is why I’m proud that the Albanese Government is investing $1 million towards this vital RFDS project in remote South Australia,” she said.
“These enhanced services, to be delivered by the RFDS, will provide an added level of comfort to the William Creek community, and will also play a key role in providing confidence to thousands of tourists that visit the local area each year.
“Our $3.25 billion Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program is doing so much more than delivering lasting infrastructure – it’s creating new employment opportunities, growing local economies, and ensuring our regional and remote communities thrive.”
SA Minister for Local Government and Member for Stuart, Geoff Brock said the establishment of the William Creek Community Health Service would significantly enhance patient care in the region.
“The RFDS is a lifeline for many communities in SA’s Far North, especially those who are hours from medical help,” he said.
“The nearest health clinic to William Creek is located more than two hours’ drive on dirt roads. This new facility will have an immediate life-changing impact on the community by overcoming this tyranny of distance.”
SA Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Clare Scriven also supported the announcement.
“This is fantastic news for our outback communities who rely on the vital services of the RFDS,” she said.
“It’s wonderful that the State Government is working with the Federal Government, OCA and the RFDS, so together we can deliver and improve services for outback communities.”
Outback Communities Authority (OCA) Chair, Jan Ferguson OAM, said the OCA was proud to support the project.
“The OCA is committed to supporting remote residents and the essential services needed to live and work in the bush. Together with the RFDS, we continue to work to meet the needs of remote communities such as William Creek,” she said.
“Our investment in this fantastic facility will enable the RFDS to deliver an improved patient experience, including expanded allied health services such as oral health.”
Construction is expected to be completed at the end of 2023.
How can I support the project?
SA’s Outback Communities Authority, through the Federal Government’s Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program, has kickstarted the project with a $1 million funding injection. The RFDS is relying on community fundraising, new and existing donors to help finance the remainder of the project cost.
Donate today and help transform vacant land into a modern medical facility that will help thousands of South Australians every year.