The RFDS was recently recognised as Australia’s Most Reputable Charity for the 12th time in Reptrak’s annual charity and not-for-profit study (2023).
Reptrak’s independent survey measures key areas such as trust, admiration, respect and overall esteem within the Australian charity sector.
Health and wellbeing remain a clear priority for all Australians with each of the five leading charities focussed on the physical health and wellbeing of Australians.
“A patient’s trust in their medical services is vital – particularly if they are living in locations that don’t have easy access to the services enjoyed in our cities,” RFDS Federation Executive Director, Frank Quinlan said.
“At the RFDS, we are humbled that we continue to earn the public’s trust in the provision of emergency medical and primary healthcare services to rural, regional and remote Australia. It gives us great pride to know that communities and families rely on us – and we are honoured to do such work. Our thanks go to every staff member, volunteer and supporter who is part of the RFDS team.”
This 2023 Charity RepTrak® survey result is testament to RFDS strong partnerships and relationships across the country, as well as the wonderful ongoing efforts of first responders, locals that clear and light dirt airstrips, long-serving custodians of medical chests, rural hosts for clinics, volunteers, fundraisers, sponsors, donors and supporters.
We thank them all for their tireless work to keep Aussies safe.
What is the Australian Charity Reputation (RepTrak®) Index?
For years, RepTrak (formerly known as the Reputation Institute) has published the Australian Charity Reputation Index, which ranks Australia’s 40 largest charities using a scoring system measuring areas such as trust, admiration, respect and overall esteem.
Measuring the perceptions of the community, the RepTrak index is focuses of seven drivers of reputation: Citizenship, Services, Innovation, Conduct, Leadership, Workplace and Cost Management.
This year, the RFDS scored a total of 96.6 points (out of 100), followed by Guide Dogs (93.3), The Fred Hollows Foundation (92.6), St John Ambulance (92.5) and Surf Life Saving Australia (92.3) rounding out the top five.
200 patients of all ages have been transferred by the Fortescue Heli-Med Service EC145 helicopters since they joined the RFDS fleet 18 months ago.
The RFDS WA is celebrating 200 patient retrievals in the Fortescue Heli-Med Service EC145 helicopters.
It comes 18 months since the hospital-to-hospital service was launched, with the two helicopters adding versatility to the RFDS aircraft fleet.
The most common retrieval site is Rottnest Island (33) followed by Bunbury (23) and Narrogin (20.) In total, patients have been transferred from 45 different locations, with sportsgrounds often used as a landing pad in regional towns.
The helicopters can land on rooftop heli-pads at Perth tertiary hospitals including Fiona Stanley Hospital, Royal Perth Hospital, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Perth Children’s Hospital and King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, drastically reducing road travel time in an ambulance.
Mostly used for retrievals within a 250 kilometre radius of Jandakot Airport, the Heli-Med service was able to expand its service area when charity Rapid Relief Team (RRT) donated 800L weatherproof fuel bunds to the wheatbelt towns of Cunderdin, Katanning and Dalwallinu in September.
“On certain flights, mainly because of weather, the rotary team need to refuel enroute before arriving at the retrieval destination,” Elaine Cadzow, Rotary Fleet Manager explained.
“The donation of the fuel bunds has allowed the Fortescue Heli-Med Service to carry the additional fuel reserves required on windy days to fly to Katanning, Cunderdin or Dalwallinu, pick up the patient and then onto a Perth tertiary hospital”.
Patients of all ages have used the service, including 13 babies and children aged 9 and under, and four aged in their 90s.
Pictured is Hines Hill mother Jess Silver, whose daughter Lexie was the first baby transferred by the Newborn Emergency Transfer Service (NETS) using the Heli-Med service, flying from Merredin Oval to the rooftop heli-pad at PCH in just 45 minutes.
Our nurses have voted over the past three days on the proposed RFDS enterprise agreement. They have been highly engaged in the ballot process with a 90% participation rate, and voted 43% in favour and 57% against.
We respect the decision of our nurses and remain committed to working in good faith with them and the union to reach an agreement as soon as we can, so that we can increase our nurses’ pay.
We offered our nurses a 13% increase over three years, backdated to 1 July 2023. We believe it’s a fair offer that compares with the rest of the healthcare sector, including Queensland Health nurses.
The increase we offered would have cost the RFDS more than $3.2 million over three years and was as much as we can afford.
As a charity, we receive critical Federal and State Government funding each year, and despite that, we run at an operational deficit. As a result, we rely on donors and fundraising to cover that gap, and we are extremely grateful to the people who support us and the critical services we provide.
Like everybody, we are also facing increased operational costs like wages, aircraft fuel, parts and equipment, and the cost of maintaining our bases and aircraft. We need to ensure we are sustainable for the communities we serve and continue to provide our services as we have done for the last 95 years.
We are incredibly grateful to our nurses who work tirelessly to provide skilled and compassionate care.
It’s hard to believe we are almost at the end of another year. As 2023 draws to a close we reflect on what a great period it has been for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
In this edition of the Flyer we hear from Rhonda Vickers, who was in such a severe condition when we picked her up from Broken Hill to take to Adelaide that there were fears she wouldn’t survive the flight. Having suffered a cardiac arrest and multi-organ failure, Rhonda’s family were ready for the worst, but we got her to Royal Adelaide Hospital, and she was able to pull through.
This month is Mental Health Month and the leader of our Mental Health Team Vanessa Latham has provided some top tips for how to overcome the pressure and stress of our busy lives.
We also speak to Brendan Cullen, one of our local advocates or “Champions” in the We’ve Got Your Back program. The Program trained people like Brendan, who lived experience of mental health issues, to enable him to support others in the community. It’s a program we are very proud of, and I’m sure you will moved by Brendan’s experiences.
In addition, you can read about the new world record the RFDS played a role in setting at the Mundi Mundi Bash, and the latest efforts of the incredible Silver City Bush Treadlers, who hold an annual ride to raise money and awareness for the Flying Doctor.
We hope you enjoy the contents of the Flyer this quarter. It’s our small way of saying thank you for your support and to help you keep informed with the latest news from around the service. We couldn’t do it without you.
Greg Sam Chief Executive Officer Royal Flying Doctor Service (South Eastern Section)
Steve Mogridge was driving on a lonely stretch of the Goldfields Highway when he instantly lost all feeling in the left side of his body. The 66 year old suddenly couldn’t move while behind the wheel of a manual car, travelling at 110 kilometres per hour.
“I was at least 50 kilometres away from Leonora Hospital, and I somehow had to keep driving. What choice did I have? If I had stopped, I certainly wasn’t going to get the help I needed,” he said.
Steve recognised that he was having a stroke. When he arrived at the hospital, he had to let the car stall to a stop in the carpark. He managed to drag himself to the front doors, where he was able to wave down a nurse inside to come over and assist him.
Shortly after, the Kalgoorlie resident was being flown to Perth by the Royal Flying Doctor Service for treatment.
“It happened so fast. My job that day was going to be to driving a bus full of staff from the Jaguar Mine to Leonora Airport – instead I was at the Airport, being loaded onto a RFDS plane!” Steve said.
“The crew from Meekatharra were so cool, calm and collected. The pilot assured me they were going to make my flight as comfortable as possible.”
Steve spent two weeks recovering in the stroke unit at Fiona Stanley Hospital, and had a stent inserted in his carotid artery.
After three months off, Steve is now back at work as a bus driver and says apart from a bit of instability on his left side, he’s feeling like himself again.
He says knowing the RFDS is there gives peace of mind to those living in regional areas.
“After my stroke, there was no MRI machine (at Leonora Hospital,) no adequate medication available and no neurologists on hand. The only option was to get to all of this help as soon as possible, it wasn’t coming to me,” Steve said.
“My only alternative to being flown to Perth was to be transferred by ambulance to Kalgoorlie and then driven to Perth. That adds up to more than 9 hours of travel time plus any stops along the way.
“Instead, less than one and a half hours after leaving Leonora Hospital, I was being positioned in a MRI machine at a hospital in Perth. The RFDS saved vital time, which ultimately saved my life.”
he Flying Doctor has embarked on a new era of healthcare accessibility, launching the RFDS Electronic Health Record (EHR) to further enhance patient care.
Designed by the RFDS to be compatible with every state and territory health system, the Electronic Health Record allows doctors, nurses and paramedics to share critical medical information in real-time – regardless of whether the patient is in the air and on the ground.
From a laptop or mobile device, RFDS crews can now digitally record a patient’s vital health stats during flight and share the data live with the awaiting receiving team on the ground, meaning life-saving decisions can be made even before the aircraft wheels touch down.
Critically, the EHR works even when offline, making it ideal for emergency health care in the middle of the Australian outback or 10,000 feet above sea level.
RFDS EHR Clinical Lead Dr Mardi Steere said the new technology served as an “extra pair of hands” for a doctor or nurse providing sole care in the back of an aircraft.
“When every second counts, the right information at the right time saves lives,” Dr Steere said.
“The EHR has a live dashboard showing real-time trends and inbuilt safety alerts around allergies and early signs of deterioration as well as guidelines around patient risk factors and medication dosages.
“Before the EHR, crews were committing all of this information on paper, which took more time and was more likely to have errors or be difficult to read.
“Now, our crews can spend more time with the patient rather than with paperwork, building upon the high quality standard of care the RFDS provides.”
Photo: RFDS Executive General Manager, Medical & Retrieval Services, Dr Mardi Steere with Flight Nurse, Jodie Hunter.
RFDS EHR Digital Lead Ryan Klose said the technology was developed using a world-class management platform from global provider Oracle.
“We approached Oracle in the first instance to tap into their data expertise currently used in the defence, banking and elite sport industries,” Mr Klose said.
“The way we are using the technology – in the rural health setting – is truly groundbreaking.
“Take the split-second decision-making of a motor-racing team with the layers of data protection behind every transaction you make at your local ATM. Then apply that to a medical emergency.
“Whether it’s being used in the back of an aircraft or in the back of a road ambulance, the EHR needs to provide information that is accurate and stays private.
“The RFDS employs leaders in their field that truly understand the complexities of working in remote settings and in this project, data experts worked side-by-side with clinicians to come up with a solution tailor-made for the outback environment and for the patients we will help.”
Photo: RFDS SA/NT Chief Information Officer, Ryan Klose.
The RFDS is currently undertaking a staged rollout – SA, NT and NSW are live and Queensland is set to adopt the EHR in coming weeks.
Seed funding for the EHR project was generously provided by Mrs Rinehart and the Rinehart Medical Foundation.
When Tony’s vehicle rolled off the Eyre Highway in one of the most remote areas of the country, he was trapped in his car clinging to life – needing the RFDS to land on the road to airlift him to safety.
After visiting family in Perth in late March, Tony Hudson set off on his way home to South Australia across the Nullarbor Plain.
It was a road trip the 53-year-old motorist had done “thousands of times”.
But on this journey, a large grey kangaroo leapt from the scrub. The roo clashed with the side of the car. The rest was a blur.
“The kangaroo came out of nowhere and I lost control – apparently the car rolled 50 metres,” he said.
Barely conscious, bones shattered and bleeding from the head, Tony was trapped. He tried to use his phone – but being so remote, there was no reception.
Using his CB radio, he managed to get hold of a truck driver, who called 000.
Graphic: RFDS Dr Edward James
“We received a 000 call and got some early information there was a single person high-speed car rollover.
“We quickly assembled a team with a critical care doctor, flight nurse and pilot, and started locating the closest airstrip so we could get to the patient as soon as possible.
“We prepared for every scenario, packing a range of equipment including our ventilator, blood supplies, spinal boards, extraction equipment, vac mats and medications.”
– RFDS Rural Generalist Consultant, Dr Edward James
Meanwhile, medical and emergency services crews came from near and far – nurses and Department of Fire and Emergency Services team members from the nearest town, Eucla, as well as paramedics from a nearby mine site.
Their expert care and immediate support was essential in extracting Tony safely from his car while the RFDS was on its way.
As the first responders came together, the RFDS team identified the accident location and discovered the closest airstrip was the road itself. Chadwick Airstrip is a designated 1,200-metre emergency highway landing strip on the Eyre Highway — one of just two such landing strips in South Australia.
Police and emergency services secured the highway, temporarily blocking traffic at both ends to allow the RFDS team from Port Augusta to land. For RFDS Pilot Matt Wedge, it was his first time landing an aircraft on a road.
Graphic: RFDS Nullarbor Retrieval
“At the RFDS, it’s always ‘go, go go’ – so this was just another challenge.
“After going through all the logistics of a road landing and ensuring the highway was ready to be secured, we had a discussion in the air with the crew about what needed to be done on arrival. You know generally what the doctor’s plan of action is and what they need, so I always just try and help out by making the journey as smooth and quick as possible.”
– RFDS Pilot, Matt Wedge
On arrival at the highway roadstrip, the local ambulance crew drove the RFDS team from the aircraft to the accident site, just 10 minutes away.
The RFDS team immediately identified that Tony had multiple life-threatening injuries. This included likely spinal injuries, a pneumothorax (collapsed lung) and an obvious head injury. Roadside surgery was going to be the only way to give Tony a fighting chance at survival.
Graphic: RFDS Nullarbor Retrieval
“When we got to the scene, the car was only a couple of metres from where the patient was laying. He was in a ditch covered in blood and dirt just off the road – his personal possessions scattered everywhere.
“Our main concern was that he was struggling to breathe – he had some air in his chest that wasn’t in his lungs, so we needed to do a chest drain.
“A chest drain involves making a hole in the side of the patient’s chest, and you need it to be as sterile as possible. Trying to do that on the ground, surrounded by scrub and dirt with cars driving past at high speeds is not ideal.”
– RFDS Retrieval Rural Generalist Consultant, Dr Jess Martyn
The RFDS team, with the help of the first responders, transferred Tony from the ground onto a stretcher so they could carry out the procedures in the ambulance.
In addition to the chest procedures, Tony was then anaesthetised and intubated so a ventilator could take over his breathing during the three-hour journey to Adelaide.
Graphic: RFDS Flight Nurse Shannyn Fitzgerald
“We were fighting the sunset as we needed to get into the air before nightfall.
“I really don’t think the outcome would’ve been as positive if the first responders weren’t there and we didn’t arrive when we did.
“The first responders were fantastic, and really gave that initial care so everything RFDS Flight Nurse, was ready for when we arrived.”
– RFDS Flight Nurse, Shannyn Fitzgerald
On arrival at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, CT scans revealed the full extent of Tony’s injuries. Tony had multiple neck and thoracic spine fractures, significant rib fractures, a collapsed lung, injuries to his abdominal organs, as well as a concussion.
While initially expecting to be home in April, Tony finally walked through his front door in mid-June this year. He had endured three weeks in intensive care, an additional three weeks in general surgery, and almost a month in rehabilitation hospital. During this time, Tony’s partner, Trish, travelled between Kadina and Adelaide daily to be by his side throughout his recovery.
“Coming home was overwhelming. Managing to give Trish a hug and a kiss, and seeing my dog who I hadn’t seen in months – he was all over me like anything,” he said.
“Even though I’m still recovering, I feel like I’ve won the lotto.”
Tony was in utter disbelief when he eventually heard about the specifics of the roadside surgery and what was carried out to save his life.
“The first time I remembered anything was when I was in the ICU about a week and a half after the accident.
“If it wasn’t for the RFDS, I’d be dead right now. Hearing about the nurses and doctors basically operating on me on the road with all the dirt, dust, cars going by at high speeds, I can’t believe that.
“This was out in the middle of nowhere and people came from everywhere to help. It wasn’t one or two people, it was a whole group. I thank every single one of them – I can’t put it into words.”
Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) staff recently attend the CBH Regional Member Sundowner in Esperance, to accept a cheque of $100,000 from WA grain growers.
Developed by CBH in conjunction with Main Roads WA, the Harvest Mass Management Scheme (HMMS) seeks to reduce the instances of overloaded grain trucks. During harvest, growers can forfeit grain from overloaded trucks, which is then sold and the resulting funds provided to WA charities.
Since the program began in 2012, more than $2.1 million has been donated to charities active in rural communities.
This year, $550,000 was generated from the HMMS, and RFDS WA was one of nine organisations to receive a donation.
Head of Nursing Paul Ingram was presented with the cheque by CBH chair Simon Stead.
“Attending my first Regional Member Sundowner was a real honour, and we are so grateful for the support of CBH through this very unique scheme,” Mr Ingram said.
General Manager of Community Relations Rebecca Maddern says CBH is a valued corporate partner of RFDS WA, with support dating back 17 years.
“CBH plays a crucial role in representing Wheatbelt farmers and other residents, and the organisation’s support allows RFDS to continue to provide aeromedical services to these communities,” Ms Maddern said.
“In the past year, RFDS WA transferred 810 patients in the Wheatbelt region.”
When aeromodeller Andrew Herzfeld set out to build a replica Rio Tinto Life-Flight PC-24 jet, he dreamed of using it to fundraise for RFDS WA.
Incredibly, its first unveiling attracted so much attention online, it caught the eye of one of America’s most prolific philanthropists, film and TV producer Tyler Perry. He was so impressed by the model aircraft that he donated $38,000 to RFDS.
Perry is a keen aeromodeller with his own mini airfield at his estate in Atlanta, Georgia. He is also working on building a replica PC-24. Their shared passion means the pair have become fast friends.
“It’s absolutely surreal, I would never have dreamed so much interest would come from this,” Andrew said.
Built with plans supplied by Pilatus, Andrew’s model is built to one third of the scale of the original with astounding detail. It features full flight function, navigational lighting and LED screens in the cockpit. During his three year labour of love, RFDS WA gave him access to the Jandakot hangar to take photographs and measurements of the original jet, and supplied paint to create an exact match.
Andrew is planning to take the 70 kilogram model to field days and expos across WA to keep raising funds for RFDS.
“A friend was involved in an incident on the Nullarbor and was airlifted to Perth by RFDS, so I wanted to find a way to give back.”
Building the replica was an outlet for Andrew during a battle with bladder and kidney cancer.
“Having this passion project to work on kept me going through the difficult days of my treatment,” he said.
You can see more photos of the jet at Hertzy’s Hangar on Facebook.