Focus on mental health as pandemic drags on

Article supplied by RFDS: One of the most widespread challenges of the pandemic has been how to deal with lockdowns, changes to employment and financial circumstances, and not being able to see friends and family.

One of the most widespread challenges of the pandemic has been how to deal with lockdowns, changes to employment and financial circumstances, and not being able to see friends and family.

This has put a bigger focus on mental health than ever before. The sudden and abrupt change to the way of life has seen more people needing help and reaching out for it. 

The RFDSSE Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs (MHAoD) team have been working in our communities to ensure continued access to help is available. As well as continuing to offer services such as virtual consultations and telehealth, the team has looked at other ways to support communities, families and individuals. 

Vanessa Latham

This has included the COVID-19 In-Reach Older Persons Program, funded by Western Primary Health Network, which provides practical support to Older Persons across the whole of Western and Far Western LHD.

RFDSSE Mental Health Manager Vanessa Latham and members of her team located at Broken Hill participated in the COVID testing clinic and used the opportunity to check on the mental health of the community, as well as registering people for testing. 

Mental Health

“It was lovely to be able to introduce myself and explain the sequence of what was going to happen, and say ‘my background is mental health nursing, so, how is your mental health going at this time?’,” Ms Latham said. “During high demand times when cars needed to queue, it was a great opportunity to have a little chat.” 

Like so many divisions of the RFDSSE, the MHAoD team has looked for ways to assist with the unprecedented workload of running vaccination clinics across the service’s territory. Ken Pascoe is an AoD Clinician with the Flying Doctor and in addition to his regular duties, he has been travelling across NSW to conduct vaccinations, and has been tying in his mental health training.

“We are finding a lot of children and even adults have a fear of needles so being able to calm them down, get them to conduct some breathing exercises and relax makes the process easier for them. I am finding that when we go back to administer second doses, people look for me because their first dose went so well,” Mr Pascoe said.

Thanks to your support, we are able to keep these vital services going and ensure the mental health needs of people in regional and remote Australia are well looked after.

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Outback vaccinations underway

RFDS vaccinations underway

Article supplied by RFDS.

Government and outback communities placing trust in RFDS to quell pandemic

On 28 May 2021, the Federal government announced a partnership with the Royal Flying Doctor Service for the Covid-19 vaccination roll-out to remote communities across Australia.  

South Eastern Section CEO Greg Sam and the RFDS of Australia Executive Director Frank Quinlan joined Michael McCormack (then Deputy Prime Minister) and Regional Health Minister Mark Coulton at our Dubbo Base to tell the press. 

It’s estimated that 30,000 people will be vaccinated under the program. “Rural communities are seeking to be vaccinated as a priority,” said Mr. Sam. “They are doing their bit for national herd immunity.”

Minister Coulton said the partnership with the RFDS means remote communities can be confident they’ll get vaccinated against Covid-19. “From the outset of this pandemic, the RFDS has provided retrievals, evacuations, swab transfers, and fly-in GP respiratory clinics, protecting the lives of people living and working in the most remote corners of the country,” he said. 

“Nobody knows remote communities like the RFDS, and it makes sense for the Government to utilise their capacity and knowledge to ensure all Australians are protected against this global pandemic.” 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, around Australia the RFDS has conducted 189 Respiratory Clinics in remote areas and seen 391 patients.

Residents in and around Broken Hill have also been able to get the jab at the Clive Bishop Medical Centre at our Broken Hill Base since Easter. 

The South Eastern Section is now planning ahead to start vaccinations at several remote locations in remote NSW and beyond, in coordination with the State and Federal governments, Primary Health Networks, Local Health Districts and local GPs.

COVID launch

Left to right: RFDS Executive Director Frank Quinlan, RFDSSE Chief Executive Officer Greg Sam, Regional Health Minister Mark Coulton, and former Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack at the Dubbo base

Message from the President, Royal Flying Doctor Service (South Eastern Section)

message from President of RFDS

Article supplied by RFDS. I hope this finds you well in these strange and testing times. Restrictions on international travel have seen increased domestic travel throughout our region since COVID-19 emerged, but then restrictions to travel relating to hotspots in Melbourne, and more recently, Sydney, have then limited travel around Australia.

Alex Scamps
Alex Scamps: President, Royal Flying Doctor Service (South Eastern Section)

I know that this has been a very challenging time for families with school holiday plans, and for people in our regional and remote communities, who have often had to cancel plans which promised the the opportunity to see loved onces who live far away.  

While we can count our blessings that the pandemic has not reached the serious fatality levels we have seen in countries such as India and the USA, it can be very hard on the spirit, and a test of our resilience to deal with constant change and uncertainty. 

The sooner we are all immunised against COVID-19, the better. The Flying Doctor is proud to be delivering the vaccine to our rural and remote communities, and is commited to giving everyone the opportunity to be immunised. Our frontline teams have been travelling to even the smallest communities, and doing everything they can to reach everyone. I want to thank these committed and hard-working members of our team, and to all those who support them, including you. It is important to note that this COVID response, along with respiratory clinics, is work over and above the every day work of the service, including attending to emergencies in remote areas, getting GPs out to remote clinics, and ensuring quality dental care is regularly available.

This is the reason you are so important to us. You make it possible for us to deliver this life-saving care. I know that our outback communities truly value you, and the support you give to the Flying Doctor. 

No matter that happens in the months ahead, we will be at the service of regional, rural and remote Australians. Thank you for being by our side, and making our work possible. 

Warm regards, 
Alex Scamps
President, Royal Flying Doctor Service (South Eastern Section)

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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