The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (RFDS) has received a $6 million donation from Mrs Gina Rinehart and the Rinehart Medical Foundation to boost its inherent capability to respond to the emergency and primary health care needs of rural and remote Australians.
The generous donation towards additional critical care equipment and telehealth technology comes at a time when the life-saving service is needing to build its ‘surge capacity’ to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The RFDS has already (to April 9) transported 110 suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients by air and road across the country since the pandemic reached Australia. Its first aeromedical response was the airlift of patients infected with the virus from Darwin to Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne in late February.
This is in addition to the Flying Doctor’s daily workload of over 100 aeromedical missions and more than 900 episodes of telehealth, primary health, mental health and dental care across the country every day.
Mrs Gina Rinehart and S. Kidman & Co Pty Ltd, one of the nation’s largest beef companies and a member of the Hancock Prospecting Group, of which Mrs Rinehart is Executive Chairman, have been long-standing advocates and benefactors of the RFDS.
S. Kidman & Co is the inaugural Jet Partner of RFDS Central Operations (serving SA/NT), helping to bring the first RFDS aeromedical jet to SA and NT, and today’s contribution from Mrs Rinehart and the Rinehart Medical Foundation will equally benefit RFDS operations in New South Wales, Queensland, the Northern Territory and South Australia.
The $6 million donation is targeted and strategic. It will ensure the full complement of life-saving medical equipment for all aeromedical bases and all aircraft, as well as investment in portable automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and telehealth technologies stationed in isolated communities to help the RFDS better manage chronic disease and isolation for outback Australians.
RFDS Central Operations Chief Executive, Tony Vaughan ASM, says the impact of Mrs Rinehart’s and the Rinehart Medical Foundation’s generous – and immediate – financial support will be far reaching.
“The RFDS has an excellent baseline level of critical care equipment across its network to respond to rural and remote Australians, but we require more in order to have surge capacity to meet anything that comes our way,” says Mr Vaughan, who is also leading the national RFDS COVID-19 Working Group.
“This includes ventilators, more cardiac monitors, IV infusion pumps and more point-of-care testing to enable aeromedical teams to serve every patient, on every aircraft or at any one of our locations across our vast RFDS network,” he says.
“Equally, at a time when those living in remote areas are feeling more isolated than ever due to COVID-19, we have the capacity to invest in state-of-the-art telehealth and in-situ point-of-care testing to partner with our high-risk patients to manage chronic disease and their mental health and wellbeing between our regular health clinics.
“The RFDS is focused on driving continual improvement in our care for every patient and at every touchpoint, so we’re very delighted that Mrs Rinehart has again joined us on our mission to deliver the finest care to the furthest corner,” Mr Vaughan said.
Mrs Rinehart’s support continues her family’s long association with the Flying Doctor. As a child she would help her mother, Hope Hancock, to raise funds for the Service in Western Australia, holding many functions at her home, as well as advocating and contributing to others who did so too.
“I well recall, as many of you present would be well familiar with, the making of hundreds of sandwiches just prior to each of these events,” Mrs Rinehart said at the unveiling of the S. Kidman & Co Jet Sponsorship of RFDS Central Operations in December 2017.
Today, the RFDS Medi-Jet 24, one of three purpose-built RFDS aeromedical jets in the country, bears the S. Kidman & Co logo as it continues to airlift critically-ill Australians throughout South Australia and the Northern Territory, and if necessary, to hospitals in capital cities.