The RFDS in WA

Medical Chests

medical chest

Across Western Australian there are approximately 510 medical chests held at remote locations such as, homesteads, pastoral stations, roadhouses, police stations, national parks, Indigenous communities, outback schools, mine sites and off-shore vessels.

Medical chests are lockable steel containers containing a wide range of medicines, which enable emergency and non-emergency treatment for people living and working in extreme isolation from professional medical care.

A person needing medical help can receive advice from an RFDS doctor via telephone who then is able to prescribe appropriate medication from the on-site chest. 

medical c

The contents of the medical chest have evolved over many years to cover a wide range of medical conditions. 

Many drugs are classified ‘prescription-only’ and must only be used under direction of a registered RFDS doctor.

Would you like to become a custodian? People living or working in remote locations, isolated from medical services can apply to the RFDS to become a custodian of a medical chest. 

Each case is assessed on its merits.

medical chest 1


Distance from medical care
- Medical chests are only approved to remote communities located greater than 80km from professional medical care (i.e. hospital, health centre). Exceptions, however, may be made for communities who are closer than 80km if they are separated by geographic features which cause inaccessibility (e.g. roads cut off in wet season). The applicant would be construed as not having reasonable access and may be entitledto a medical chest.

Adequate telecommunications
- Chest holders must have the capacity to be in telephone communication with the RFDS in order to obtain authorisation for use of restricted items.

charles hull contracting

Responsible person - It is a requirement that at least one person agrees to act as the responsible custodian of the medical chest. They would be required to read an Agreement and complete a Declaration Form stating they will abide by the conditions of the medical chest program. This will also give them authority to sign orders for items.

Size of community
- Whilst there is no minimum size of a community for issue of a medical chest (providing all other criteria and limited access to health services are met), the chest is designed to service a population of up to approximately 30 persons.



A medical chest must be kept locked at all times when not in use.

The contents of a medical chest must be checked regularly for expired items and general completeness.

Highlighted prescription drugs are only to be used under RFDS doctor's instruction.

Keeping a record of the RFDS doctor's consultation numbers in a drug register is essential for re-ordering prescription medication.

The appropriate registration number should be clearly marked on the chest.

The responsible custodian should advise the RFDS when someone else takes over care and control of the chest.

There are items that require refrigeration if the chest is unable to be kept in a cool location.

Medical chests are registered to a location and must not be moved without the permission of RFDS.

Rosemarie and Amy


Applicants need to meet the eligibility and obligations above. For further details on managing a medical chest or to apply, call the Medical Chest Coordinator on 08 9417 6300 or email

Once it has been determined you meet the criteria we will send you an application form to complete. The application is then reviewed by the Medical Director. Once formally approved, we will commence steps to arrange for a steel chest and contents to be issued along with the appropriate documentation.