Meet RFDS WA Nurse Brooke Maloney

Article supplied by RFDS

It was while Brooke was working as a nurse in the remote Pilbara that she came into regular contact with the RFDS and was inspired to pursue a career as a flight nurse. Today, she is one of more than 50 RFDS WA flight nurses who provide critical support to rural and remote Western Australian women who are with child. Here is her story.

Brooke Maloney

Q) What attracted you to a career with the Royal Flying Doctor Service?
A. Early in my nursing career, I was practicing in a remote location in the inland Pilbara at a two-nurse hospital, with GP/locum support. In that time, the RFDS was a huge part of my day-to-day collaboration and in moving patients to the airstrip for retrieval. Relying on the RFDS for critical care support, prior to Emergency Telehealth Service (ETS) being established, set the foundation of my deep respect for the work they, and now I, do.

I found out that in order to be considered as a Flight Nurse for the RFDS by way of training and skills, registration to practice midwifery was an essential criteria, along with specific trauma and critical care courses. When I returned to Perth, I had my sights set on serving as a flight nurse with the RFDS and went about getting the necessary qualifications.

Since joining the RFDS, I have been based at Jandakot and can be tasked to respond to medical emergencies from anywhere across more than 2.5 million square kilometres of Western Australia.

Q) How empowering it is as an RFDS nurse to have midwifery skills under your belt too?

A. It enables me to care for all patients within my full scope of practice. Whether it’s an early pregnancy loss or complication, or late-term or a post natal complication reason for transfer, I have the skill-set and confidence that I can provide the care required.  

Q) What you do love about being a midwife with the RFDS?

A. The midwifery I practice with the RFDS is unlike any other maternity care setting. There is a certain level of autonomy within my role that is difficult to achieve in a hospital setting. Being able to support rural and remote woman with competent and safe maternity care in what is often a scary, isolating and challenging time in their life is a privilege.

Q) What capabilities and capacities does the RFDS have to help pregnant women?

A. RFDS midwives are trained in obstetric emergencies and neonatal resus with regular upskilling and re-certification. But we are also midwives trained in normal birth. Yes, the births we attend are likely pre-term, a complex-care scenario or in less than ideal locations, but ultimately when a baby decides it’s coming, it’s coming.
Supporting normal birth physiology and the emotional and physical needs of the birthing woman is a fundamental aspect to the midwifery care we provide. This is then intertwined with our critical care training to ensure optimal safety for women and their babies during retrieval.

Q) How different is it being a midwife at a hospital in comparison to a flying ICU in the air?

A. There is often you and a pilot and maybe a doctor. In the air, you are solely relying on your midwifery skill, encompassing all of the multidisciplinary aspects of maternity care with the added critical care skill-set and medical equipment should you need it. But you’re doing it all. It’s not for everyone, but I love it.

Q) Can you share with us a time where you had to help deliver a baby?

A. Last August, I responded to a Priority 1 patient located in a country town north of Perth who was labouring pre-term with her second baby.  I walked into the hospital and I knew by her vocalisations that baby was imminent. So I washed my hands, introduced myself and got close to the woman. In a low voice, I said: “My name is Brooke, I am a midwife and it sounds very much like we’re going to have a baby together.” Between contractions I encouraged her to move to a more comfortable position, take sips of water and we listen to the fetal heart rate which was super reassuring for her. I took the time to whisper to her: “You are safe, your baby is safe and we are all in this together.” Within 18 minutes, a beautiful, albeit tiny, baby girl was born. Baby arrived in good condition but we still needed to transport mum and bub to a regional centre for specialist care. A week later when I returned to retrieve another patient, she was able to provide me with an update on her baby’s progress and I was able to debrief properly with her about her experience.

RFDS helps deliver first baby born in Richmond in 15 years

RFDS helps deliver baby in Richmond

Article supplied by RFDS.

Jess Harvey was 35 weeks pregnant when she awoke in the middle of the night with contractions.

The only problem was, she was at home on a remote station two hours from Richmond — the nearest town — more than 500 kilometres from her nearest tertiary hospital, and 270 kilometres away from her partner Sam, who was at a mustering camp.

“I called my mum and just cried; this wasn’t how I planned it,” Jess said.  

Friends on the property drove Jess two hours to the health service in town, as her contractions got closer and closer together.

As there were no midwives stationed at the health service, the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS) based in Mount Isa, received an early morning call from Retrieval Services Queensland to assist.

The team of three including a doctor, a flight nurse, and pilot, touched down in Richmond a short time later.

RFDS Doctor Shima Ghedia said it was a privilege to assist in the delivery of Darby, the first baby to be born at the health service in Richmond in 15 years.

Flight Nurse Leanne Ashbacher

“Jess was an absolute trooper; Sam was there to support and cut the cord, our Flight Nurse (Midwifery) Leanne Ashbacher was incredible, and even our pilot got involved,” Dr Shima said.

“The local staff at the health centre were also overjoyed.”

Jess said the whole team were incredible.

“They were unreal, I cannot thank them enough. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know what I would’ve done.”

Jess and baby Darby were flown by the RFDS crew to Townsville for further care and have since returned home to their property.

Doctor Shima said when the team finally touched back down in Mount Isa, there was yet another reason to celebrate that day, with RFDS Pilot Michael Flood hitting his milestone of 10,000 flight hours.

“Michael has been flying for more than 22 years and has worked with the Flying Doctor for many years, so this was a wonderful achievement,” she said.

“I’m so proud of the whole team and this was certainly a day all involved won’t forget any time soon.”

Providing vital care to those who need it most

Article supplied by RFDS

If you or someone you love has had a medical emergency in remote Queensland, you’ll understand how comforting it is to know the Flying Doctor is on its way.

Responding to life-threatening events that require urgent medical care is all in a day’s work for the Flying Doctor. This gripping video shows some of the emergencies the Flying Doctor team has been called to respond to. The Flying Doctor provides life-saving medical care in the most difficult of situations.

Pledge your support this Flying Doctor day on the 17th of May, with a gift in your Will so that future generations of Queenslanders can take comfort knowing the Flying Doctor will be there for them.

Pledge today to support the Flying Doctor in this extraordinarily kind and generous way.

If you would like to learn more about gifts in wills please contact Heather Stott on 07 3852 7586 or email giftinwill@rfdsqld.com.au

Flying Doctor Community Transport is set to expand its service right across Victoria

Article supplied by RFDS.

This service expansion is made possible through an Australian Government’s Primary Health Networks (PHN) Program grant obtained by Western Victoria Primary Health Network. Western Victoria PHN has partnered with Murray PHN and Gippsland PHN so that the program can reach communities in the catchments of all three rural Victorian Primary Health Networks. While the exact locations of the new service hubs are still being finalised, RFDS Victoria is excited that all three PHNs have come together for this project.

Flying Doctor Community Transport provides free transportation for eligible clients to their health appointments and social group activities. The service recognises that people living in rural communities can face additional barriers when it comes to accessing health care and social connection due to a geographically spread population and limited transport options. As such, the service aims to make it easier and more affordable for people to attend vital health care appointments, thereby enabling people to take control of their own health and reducing occurrences of missed appointments.

“The greatest cost to our health system is missed appointments,” says Scott Chapman, Chief Executive RFDS Victoria. “For the people who are having to go for cancer treatments or other things, they rely on their family to have to take a day off and come up from Melbourne to get them there, and so people just miss appointments. This service is designed to make sure that doesn’t happen.

“What we have seen with the success of this service is that we are not only helping individuals but contributing to healthy communities.”

Western Victoria Primary Health Network CEO Rowena Clift says they are excited to partner with RFDS Victoria to bring this great service to more communities.

“We are delighted to partner with RFDS Victoria. This unique and valuable service reaches into parts of our community where health services are not readily available or are some distance away. Through RFDS, people can receive the health assistance they need. We also look forward to the establishment of the new hubs in our region to further enhance this service for our community.”

The Flying Doctor Community Transport service originally launched in Heathcote in central Victoria in 2018, and expanded to Rochester in 2021. In these areas, RFDS Victoria’s partnerships with Heathcote Health and Rochester and Elmore District Health Service, respectively, have been a large driver for the program’s success.

“Having already established successful and supportive relationships in Heathcote and Rochester, we are excited by this opportunity to partner with three innovative PHNs,” says Melanie Trivett, General Manager for Primary Health Care, RFDS Victoria. “We look forward to working with Western Victoria Primary Health Network, Murray PHN and Gippsland PHN to develop a service that is run with the community, for the community.”

In addition to its strong partnerships, Flying Doctor Community Transport is made possible thanks to its very generous volunteer drivers. The volunteers are typically passionate locals who are committed to supporting their community, or health care students who are looking for some real world experience – in fact, some volunteers from the Heathcote and Rochester programs have gone on to join the Flying Doctor’s Mobile Patient Care (MPC) service.

“Once our new sites are confirmed, we will begin seeking expressions of interest from locals in those communities to join our team of volunteer drivers,” says Dr Trivett. “Volunteers are the backbone of community transport services, and so we are always looking for ways we can celebrate our volunteers and recognise their generous contributions, such as through our involvement in the inaugural Victorian Community Transport Week.”

To find out more about Flying Doctor Community Transport and its pending expansion, contact our team on 1300 887 678 or via communitytransport@rfdsvic.com.au. You can also keep an eye on our Facebook page for all updates.

Thank God for the Flying Doctor

Article supplied by RFDS

Far North Queensland cattle producer and tourist operator Lyn French has a lifelong association with the Flying Doctor.

So too, does her husband Rob, whose ancestors worked closely with the aerial ambulance and then the RFDS to help bring transceivers to Queensland stations.

For more than 150 years the French family has lived on Gilberton Station, an 88,000-acre seventh generation cattle station approximately 500 kilometres west of Townsville.

Lyn says if it wasn’t for the Flying Doctor’s emergency and primary health care services her family would struggle to live in such a remote location.

“Growing up, my mother was always saying ‘thank God for the Flying Doctor’ and I never understood what she meant because I didn’t know life without them.”

Now married, with children and grandchildren of her own, Lyn says she truly appreciates and understands the importance of her mother’s words.

“There’s been a few accidents where we wouldn’t have survived without the RFDS.

“The worst incident we had was in 1999, when our daughter Anna was only six years old. She had a horrific accident while mustering, sustaining a compound fracture to her leg and breaking her pelvis in three places.

“Being an hour from the homestead meant we had to unsaddle our horses, make a bed on the back of the ute, tie Anna’s legs together with the rein of the horse bridle to keep her stable, and travel the 20 kilometres home at a snail’s pace to call for help.

“By the time we contacted the Flying Doctor, Anna had gone into shock. I don’t know what the outcome would have been if the RFDS wasn’t able to fly her to Townsville. As it was, she spent three months in traction before coming home in a full body cast for another eight weeks.

“So, in my mother’s words: ‘thank God for the Flying Doctor!’

“They’re such a constant in our lives — they’re our GP, our chemist, our dentist, emotional support and our mantel of safety — we really couldn’t live where we do without them.”

In 2001, Gilberton Station hosted the first RFDS Field Days for the Cairns-based health promotions team and Lyn says it’s the best thing to happen to their community.

“From the young to the old, RFDS staff have taught all in our community so much about primary health care. We’ve learned about medical issues we weren’t aware of, how to treat snake bites, respond to farming accidents, administer medication and how to prioritise our health and wellbeing.”

As a mother of three, Lyn said administering medication would not be possible without the RFDS medical chest.

“Our chest holds items ranging from antibiotics to heart attack medication and injections for pain relief.

“Everything is safely labelled, so when the doctor prescribes a medication we can easily identify and administer it appropriately.”

More recently, the French family has also come to appreciate the Flying Doctor’s telehealth service.

“My elderly father-in-law has had some health issues over the past few years and to be able to access healthcare from home has been a godsend.

He’s able to regularly chat to his doctor without making the eight-hour trip to Cairns.

“I’m so grateful for all of the services provided by the RFDS and to have had a lifelong association with such an iconic organisation. My children, and now grandchildren, have grown up idolizing the Flying Doctor and I have no doubt the French family will be associated with the RFDS for generations to come.”READ MORE STAFF AND PATIENT STORIES

RFDS COVID19 Responding to Need

Article supplied by the Royal Flying Doctor Service

As the Delta strain of COVID-19 causing troubles for states across Australia, the RFDS continues to be respond as part of the national health service.

Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, the RFDS has conducted 3,095 patient episodes of care for confirmed or high suspected COVID-19 — transporting people who have confirmed or highly suspect of having COVID-19.

Over the same period the RFDS has conducted 191 Respiratory Clinics in remote areas, where we have seen 393 patients.

With funding from the Commonwealth government, and in close coordination with Aboriginal Medical Services, Primary Health Networks, Local Hospital Districts and State governments, the RFDS is running a community-led vaccination program to isolated and remote communities across Australia.

To date 5,122 vaccinations have been given in remote communities such as Tibooburra, Eucla, Rawlinna, Forest Airport, Yowah, Jundah, Birdsville, Eulo, Windorah, Stonehenge, Yaraka, Pentland, Greenvale, Ravenswood, Einasleigh, Mount Surprise, Eromanga, Urandangi, Dajarra, Glendambo, Kingoonya, Commonwealth Hill, Innaminka and Timber Creek. About 45% of these vaccinations are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians.

The RFDS is also assisting state vaccination programs by facilitating the delivery of vaccines or transporting clinical staff from state health teams, such as Kangaroo Island in South Australia.

Between July and December 2021 there are more than 600 vaccination clinic days scheduled, across 152 different remote communities. We are expecting to vaccinate over 50,000 remote Australians by the end of the year, however aiming for 80,000, as communicated by the Prime Minister.

If you have questions about what the Corona Virus COVID-19 is, what the symptoms are, how it spreads, or what local state restrictions mean for you personally, you can learn more at the Department of Health website and Healthdirect Australia website.  The Healthdirect Australia Pregnancy, Birth and Baby website also includes COVID-19 information for pregnancy and parenting and their Maternal Child Health Nurses are equipped for COVID-19 questions from anxious parents, via video call or phone 1800 882 436.

If you are unsure on what COVID restrictions are in your state or territory, you can get the latest information using the COVID Restriction Checker to find out what you can or can’t do.

The RFDS has factsheets on prevention, symptoms and what to do if you feel you may have COVID-19. These can be downloaded below.

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