JUNE: Reaching new heights of community care

Date published

11 Dec 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continued to impact lives across Australia in June – the RFDS continued to step up to assist those living in the outback in new and unique ways.

When commercial flights were grounded, the Flying Doctor worked hard to transport patients, medical specialists, pathology tests and even students, across the border between South Australia and Northern Territory.

“Every week for weeks and weeks we flew people between Darwin to Adelaide for vital medical appointments, cardiac patients, those needing an urgent MRI,” Darwin Operations Manager Sam Bennett said.

“These were patients who would normally have been able to take a commercial flight,” Ms Bennett said.

“Our crews were also able to transport a COVID-19-checked escort with these patients as border closures meant there was no other way their loved ones could accompany them.”

During this time, the Flying Doctor also helped transfer third-party medical specialists to Alice Springs and pathology tests from remote communities for SA Health and NT Health.

Our teams partnered with SA Health to administer flu vaccinations in 11 Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) communities during lockdown.

And the Flying Doctor recognised COVID-19’s unprecedented impact on isolated communities and further adapted its response to support healthier and happier Australians no matter where they live.

This led the RFDS to assist Top End country men and staff from the innovative Indigenous-owned and run health service Purple House to attend a funeral of an elder on Elcho Island.

The Flying Doctor also had worked with a team of school administrators, the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association and South Australian Police to transport stranded students across state lines shut down by the coronavirus.

“We received a call from Deep Well Station near Alice Springs and were advised that station families had exhausted all avenues in finding a way to get students back to school,” Ms Bennett said.

Acknowledging the importance of supporting rural families, a commuter RFDS aircraft was organised to airlift nine remote students to Adelaide to resume their schooling.


RFDS Executive General Manager of Marketing and Stakeholder Relations Charlie Paterson said the Flying Doctor started building its aeromedical capability to respond to COVID-19 in January, while also maintaining its non-aeromedical aircraft generally used for health clinics.

“Lending our capacity to assist our health partners and communities outside our day-to-day role during this crisis has been something we’ve been very proud of,” Mr Paterson (pictured right) said.

“In many ways, it has meant the continuation of vital health services as well as backing our communities as they transition back to ‘normal’.”

In the meantime, the RFDS continued to airlift eight Territorians and 15 South Australians every day for lifesaving and specialist medical care.