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.
Royal Flying Doctor Service and Generous Donors Bring Healthcare to Every Corner of Australia
The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) is delighted to announce the return of its Oceans to Outback fitness challenge, reinforcing its commitment to providing accessible and reliable healthcare to all Australians, regardless of their location. This ongoing initiative is made possible by the generous support of our donors and partners, whose compassion and dedication fuel our mission to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those in need.
Living in a country as vast and diverse as Australia presents unique challenges, especially for residents of rural and remote areas. Access to prompt medical attention can be limited, and in emergencies, every second counts. It is during these critical moments that the RFDS aims to bridge the gap between patients and medical care, ensuring that vital health services reach even the most far-flung regions.
At the heart of our commitment lies the impact our services have on individuals and families. Andrew, a resident from rural South Australia, shared his heartfelt appreciation, stating, “If it wasn’t for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and their generous donors, I wouldn’t be here today.” These words serve as a poignant reminder of the profound impact our organization has on the lives of countless Australians.
Thanks to the enduring support of donors like you, the RFDS has been able to expand its reach and enhance its response times. Through the Oceans to Outback program, our dedicated teams are equipped to travel further and faster, overcoming geographical challenges to deliver essential primary healthcare services to every corner of the country.
From bustling urban centers to the most isolated outback communities, our aircraft are equipped to be mobile clinics, staffed with skilled medical professionals who are ready to provide expert care. This commitment to inclusivity ensures that no one is left without access to healthcare, no matter how remote their location may be.
In a display of unwavering humility, we recognize that our work is not about grand gestures or headlines; it is about the people we serve. Our collective impact extends beyond statistics and numbers; it is felt in the lives of each person who receives the care and compassion they need during moments of vulnerability.
As we celebrate the return of the Oceans to Outback program, we acknowledge that this journey would not be possible without the incredible generosity of our donors and the dedication of our passionate team members. Together, we stand united in our mission to make a lasting difference in the lives of Australians in need.
With profound gratitude, we invite you to join us in this ongoing endeavor. Your continued support ensures that the RFDS can remain at the forefront of emergency medical care, providing hope and healing to those who need it most.
As we embark on another chapter of Oceans to Outback, we humbly embrace the responsibility of serving our communities and strive to make a difference, one flight at a time. Together, let us continue to bring essential healthcare to every corner of this great land, and create a brighter and healthier future for all Australians.
Article supplied by RFDS. What is the life of a flight nurse actually like? Flight nurses are responsible for medical emergency response and delivery of primary healthcare services in the remotest parts of the country. They have to be professionally competent to deal with a wide range of medical emergencies and be able to care for severely ill patients, including infants, children, and the elderly. Flight nurses also have to maintain a good sense of humor and love and care for those they serve.
Jacinta Jones, a flight nurse based out of Brisbane, is being interviewed in this podcast. She shares her childhood experience of living in different locations with her mother, who was a remote area nurse and witnessing RFDS clinics providing primary healthcare services and evacuations when patients were too unwell to stay in town.
In this episode, we also discuss the work schedule of flight nurses in Australia. There are seven bases in Queensland, three of which have two 12-hour shifts: a day shift starting at 6 am and a night shift starting at 6 pm. Two bases in the coastal region also follow this schedule, while the other two bases, as well as bases in other states, may have slightly different shift patterns depending on the needs of the region.
Jacinta shares a story of when they had to land at Dagworth station, where Banjo Paterson wrote Waltzing Matilda, to help an unwell station worker. However, when they tried to take off again, they got bogged down in a green patch on the runway, and the station workers had to help them dig and tow the airplane out. She advises aspiring nurses who are interested in travel to consider flight nursing as a career.
Join us in this new episode of the#FlyingDoctorPodcastpodcast as we chat with Jacinta about her world and adventures as a flight nurse.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RDFS) Victoria has proudly announced the recipients of its inaugural Flying Doctor Favourite Country Bakery awards.
These awards recognise the bakeries that Flying Doctor team members most enjoy visiting while driving across the state of Victoria to transport patients and deliver a multitude of primary health care services.
“Many people know the Flying Doctor for our rescue missions in the Outback, but here in Victoria, we don’t just take people to health care: we bring health care to people,” says Scott Chapman, RFDS Victoria Chief Executive. “We embed ourselves and our services in Victorian country towns, enabling people to access care in their own community. By doing this, we become part of rural Victorian communities, which means our teams have become familiar faces at many bakeries across the state–and a valued source of information regarding the whereabouts of Victoria’s best pies and baked treats.”
In addition to acknowledging the bakeries that keep Flying Doctor crews fuelled and well fed while out on the road, the purpose of these awards is to encourage people to undertake a country bakery road trip of their own and visit Victoria’s many rural and remote communities for themselves.
“Our state has some incredibly diverse and unique communities, and while our people have the privilege of living and working across these areas, we want to inspire more people to hit the road and visit these country towns, meet their incredible locals and, of course, try their delicious pies for themselves,” says Mr Chapman.
Ten years ago, Andrew (pictured left) stepped backwards onto what appeared to be solid ground, to have a mineshaft open up beneath him.
Andrew was retrieved by the RFDS who provided him with in-flight medical care while on the way to Perth to access specialist care. “I take a couple of steps back, and I’m turning around and talking to guys. All right, once we’ve done this, we’ll go and I took a step backward, and the ground opened up”, said Andrew. “And, yeah, I fell, all I remember there is, like, scrambling at the Earth with my hands, and I couldn’t get the purchase. Everything crumbled, and then it collapsed.”
As a way of giving back, Andrew and his mate Bosko have carefully curated a children’s book ‘Dwayne’s First Flight’ to help raise vital funds for the RFDS.
In the book, Dwayne has an important mission, but he’s never flown in the dark. Throughout the story, he overcomes fears, believes in himself, and makes new friends along the way.
Listen to the full story shared by Andrew himself who considers it to be a life-altering experience for him and his family.
More than 5,700 eager Australians participated in Oceans to Outback, the RFDS’s very first national fundraising fitness challenge.
The Flying Doctor invited participants to walk, run or cycle during the month of October, while raising funds to help the Flying Doctor deliver life-saving care across the country.
As they progressed, participants were guided on a virtual journey across Australia, stopping at eight featured RFDS locations along the way.
Together over the month-long adventure, participants travelled over 420,000 kilometres and raised more than $1.3 million.
Meet some of the participants
Twelve-year-old Port Lincoln local Clay Bertram, raised a whopping $12,000, dedicating his fundraising campaign to his late Uncle Max, who passed away in September last year.
“Fundraising for the RFDS is so important to me because the RFDS practically saved his life 26 years ago,” he said.
“He was so grateful for the RFDS and my family and I are so thankful that we got to spend more time with him.”
University of Adelaide veterinary students Maddie, Gaby, Jen and Jess, aka “Team Fantastic Fur”, raised more than $6,000.
In April this year, Maddie’s younger sister Leiella was airlifted by the RFDS for life-saving treatment after a riding accident.
In gratitude of the care Leiella received, Maddie and her friends worked overtime during the month of October, racking up kilometres and asking for donations around campus.
“We like to think this is a big thank you for your help with Leiella,” Kimberly, Leiella’s mum said.
“The girls are also getting out and enjoying the fresh air which is fantastic for their mental health – so it really is a win-win.”
Nadia Kotska was one many RFDS employees in South Australia and the Northern Territory taking on the month-long challenge.
“I’m working as an RFDS Health Services Assistant in Marree whilst finishing my final year of nursing. I had to take time off for clinical placements, so decided to join Oceans to Outback to still contribute to the RFDS while I was away,” Nadia said.
“I have incredibly supportive family and friends who have enjoyed seeing my remote adventures, and who all genuinely want to support what the RFDS does.”
The Flying Doctor thanks everyone for their phenomenal fundraising efforts.
You have until the end of November if you would like to donate to Oceans to Outback!
The RFDS was awarded a Special Commendation at the 2022 SA Health Supplier Awards (Innovation Category) for the integration of a groundbreaking portable flight simulator into its operations.
The FlightSafety International ‘MissionFit’ simulator, which was introduced to the RFDS Adelaide Base at the start of 2022, is specially configured to simulate the RFDS Pilatus PC-12, of which there are 19 in the aeromedical fleet in SA and NT.
The simulator enables pilots to navigate normal and abnormal scenarios and adverse weather conditions, while completing all of the necessary checks and procedures in a real flight.
RFDS Central Operations Head of Training and Checking, Matthew Cosier, said the MissionFit simulator is a new type of technology that will benefit the training of both new and experienced PC-12 pilots.
“When commercial pilots join the Flying Doctor, they need to have a minimum of 2,500 flying hours with experience flying in rural and remote Australia – but generally they never flown a PC-12 aircraft,” he said.
“Firstly, we have to put them through Ground School and then weeks of rigorous training with a pilot instructor before they’re signed off to fly on their own.
“The MissionFit will allow us to train pilots to a new level of standard, in particular handling the system failures that we can’t simulate when we’re flying in the real aircraft.
With emergency retrievals required day and night, pilots must be adept at handling all scenarios and weather conditions.”
Photo: RFDS’s Matthew Cosier with the MissionFit simulator.
RFDS Central Operations Line Pilot, Heather Ford, flies around 50 hours each month airlifting patients across Central Australia.
She said the simulator puts pilots under pressure, making the recreation of emergencies as real as possible.
“Having the MissionFit makes the simulation as real as it possibly can be without any risk to the crew or the aircraft – we’ll be put through certain scenarios so that we can recognise and deal with them before they become an emergency,” Ms Ford said.
“Every decision we make is based on the experience we have. The more situations you expose pilots to, the better the pilot is going to be.”
Each year, the Flying Doctor airlifts more than 9,000 patients in the SA and NT – equivalent to 25 missions per day.
Having this interactive device relieves more aircraft from training duties, increasing the RFDS’s capacity to provide vital 24/7 aeromedical services to all corners of Central Australia.
Pilots can train at any time without worrying about aircraft availability, air traffic congestion or poor weather conditions from hindering their mandatory training.
“As an RFDS Pilot we have to successfully pass four checks a year. These checks range between two and three hours each – around half of which can be conducted in the MissionFit simulator,” Ms Ford said.
“By taking all the possible mandatory training we can out of a real aircraft and into the simulator, it means more of the RFDS fleet is available to continue to save lives.”
The purchase of the MissionFit simulator was partly funded by a generous Gift in Will made by the late Peter Griffiths Smith.
Photo: RFDS Pilot Heather Ford flies around 50 hours each month airlifting patients across Central Australia.
There are also the added economic and environmental benefits of the simulator – the financial savings made on fuel due to reduced actual flight time, as well as lower emissions and carbon footprint.
But at the end of the day, the biggest beneficiary will be those from rural and remote communities who turn to the Flying Doctor for help.
“The people who are going to benefit the most are patients of the RFDS,” Mr Cosier said.
“Our pilots will be able to deliver a new level of safety as we continue to support healthier and happier Australians no matter where they live, work or play.”
MissionFit is a CASA-approved flight simulation training device and in the future may be able to simulate the RFDS Medi-Jet 24.
Photo: The flight simulator in action with RFDS Pilot Andrew Smith.