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.
We are incredibly lucky to have amazing supporters but few start as young as Neroli Moreno, who made her first donation as a three-month-old.
Neroli’s mum Chantel and dad Tino knew they wanted to set a good example for their adorable new addition by signing her up as a regular giver to the RFDS.
“We want to teach her about generosity, charity, giving and helping others as she grows up. We hope she can be proud in the future of her donation history,” Chantel said.
Having grown up on a farm in the Nambucca Valley, Chantel said she understood the importance of knowing the Flying Doctor was there to help those who weren’t just down the road from a hospital.
“Farms, mines, and rural communities do not have the same facilities that inner city hospitals do. The RFDS gives those people an equal chance of getting lifesaving treatment. To be able to offer lifesaving medical assistance to those in need when they are so isolated is truly a necessity and they shouldn’t be taken for granted,” Chantel said.
“We would love to show Neroli about how important the RFDS is and what they do for the people in remote Australian communities. We want to teach her about being generous and helping others and how her donations make a difference and could save the life of a girl just like her.”
The Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS) will extend its Mental Health and Wellbeing Service with the launch of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Announced today, the Flying Doctor’s EAP allows organisations to offer counselling and wellbeing consultations to their employees, which are all provided under complete anonymity and free of charge for the individual.
The first organisation to enlist the new RFDS EAP is fellow Queensland country-minded institution, AgForce.
RFDS (Queensland Section) Manager Central West and Outback Mental Health Doctor Tim Driscoll said the EAP was designed to help bridge the gap in the accessibility of counselling and wellbeing services for those living and working outside urban centres.
“We all lead busy lives, which can make it difficult to find time for our health and wellbeing –particularly for those living or working in rural and remote areas where people often wait for things to get a lot worse before seeking help,” Dr Driscoll said.
“A conversation with a trained professional can help tackle common daily struggles – such as trouble sleeping, feeling down or long-term stress – helping to address issues and get support before things get out of control.”
In the past year alone, the RFDS provided more than 12,000 mental health consultations across the state’s regional, rural and remote communities. The extension of these services to target employee health and wellbeing via workplaces is set to provide an additional avenue to increase the accessibility and uptake across Queensland.
RFDS (Queensland Section) Chief Executive Officer Meredith Staib said EAPs provide benefits for both employees and employers.
“Being able to work with corporate partners can help amplify the accessibility of our services, while also playing an important preventative role in the wellbeing of individuals across Queensland,” Ms Staib said.
“As well as the personal benefits for the individual obtaining support, an EAP promotes higher staff engagement, reduces absenteeism, reduces stress, and increases productivity as well as overall performance.”
AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said the organisation was delighted to have the RFDS design a bespoke EAP program for its 40-strong team of employees located across Queensland.
“As an organisation, AgForce is committed to providing our team members with all the resources they need to thrive both in the workplace, and in life outside of it,” Mr Guerin said.
“The trust we have in the RFDS as an experienced and qualified team is of utmost importance, but it’s also a great comfort to know that their experienced clinicians are deeply ingrained in regional communities and can truly understand the unique challenges our team may face.”
This photo of 22-year-old Jess was taken one hour before the moment she almost died. She looks happy and relaxed—a picture of health. It’s almost impossible to believe what happened next.
Jess went into cardiac arrest while attending a local rugby match. For 10 minutes, her heart stopped. For 22 minutes, bystanders did CPR in a desperate attempt to bring her back, before she was urgently taken to Gladstone Hospital by a QAS ambulance.
Jess’s mum Trudy’s phone rang at around 6.30pm.“I was told Jess had been brought into Gladstone Hospital and she was very sick,” remembers Trudy.
It was simply impossible for Trudy to understand. Jess was young, physically active and strong.
“At first, the doctor told me they were flying her to Brisbane, but then they called back to say they couldn’t stabilise her. I needed to come straight to Gladstone Hospital. They were basically telling me to come and say my goodbyes.”
As Trudy was on her way to Gladstone, every minute felt like an eternity. “I just wanted to get to my child,” she says.
At the same time, one of our aeromedical crews had been tasked by Retrieval Services Queensland and was flying up from our Brisbane Base.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) celebrates its proud history with Qantas, as the commercial airline celebrates 100 years of passenger flying.
On 2 November, Qantas will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first regular passenger air service between Cloncurry and Charleville.
Alexander Kennedy, an 84-year-old outback pioneer, was the first passenger back in 1922, who flew the Longreach-Winton-McKinlay-Cloncurry leg of the inaugural mail service.
On Sunday 30 October, the historic milestone will be brought to life at the Charleville airport through an interactive centenary celebration where guests can engage with historic memorabilia, competitions, activities, and auctions.
The Flying Doctor has a longstanding history with Qantas – having chartered the first ever RFDS flight in 1928 between Cloncurry and Julia Creek.
In the first year alone, 225 emergency aeromedical retrievals took place, inspiring a dedication to providing critical health services to the furthest corners.
Speaking of the milestone for Qantas, RFDS Charleville Base Support Manager, Liane Spencer, said it was as a reminder of the invaluable support Qantas had provided to the RFDS over its history.
“It’s incredible to think it’s been 100 years since the first ever mail flight from Qantas, as without them, the RFDS wouldn’t be what it is today,” Ms Spencer said.
“A century on and we are more dedicated than ever to provide leading emergency aeromedical retrieval and health care services to rural and remote communities across Queensland, and we continue to be supported by Qantas along the way.”
As part of Qantas’ 100 year celebration, the RFDS pilot simulator will be open to the public to experience a flight with the Flying Doctor. The event is set to bring the community together to celebrate a nation where all Australians have access to emergency healthcare – no matter their location.
“We are incredibly excited to celebrate 100 years since Qantas’ first mail flight and look forward to seeing members of the community experience the true essence of the Flying Doctor with exclusive historic memorabilia and a unique look at our history,” Ms Spencer said.
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.
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.
A five-year stint in the Pilbara region of Western Australia during her early working life gave Alice* an understanding for the work of the Flying Doctor and motivated her to make a gift in her Will for the South Eastern Section.
Alice said she wanted to ensure the Flying Doctor would be able to assist people in isolated communities into the future.
“I have a better appreciation than most of what isolation is like when I lived and worked in the Pilbara region. I lived in a town (Tom Price) that was built for employees of the mine there,” Alice said.
“The town was built by the mining company and had everything including a supermarket, bank, post office, school and hospital, but once you set foot out of town, there was nothing.
“It was such a beautiful sight, the red dirt against a bright blue sky and the ghost gums, but it was such an isolated place. The nearest town was Wittenoom, more than 100 kilometres away, and it was several hours to Dampier.
“If you went anywhere you had to tell people where you were going otherwise they wouldn’t know to look out for you if you didn’t come back.”
While technology had made the world smaller and kept people in touch, there was no overcoming the tyranny of distance in outback Australia, Alice said, and that was what made the Flying Doctor so important.
“I don’t think a lot of people who live in cities or even large regional towns could understand what the isolation is like. I got a taste of it, and all I could think was if I got into trouble when I was out there I would hope there was someone like the Flying Doctor who was able to help,” Alice said.
We are so grateful to our generous supporters like Alice, who want to ensure that no Australian is left without access to quality healthcare regardless of their location.
If you are interested in leaving a gift in your Will to the Royal Flying Doctor Service (South Eastern Section), we would love an opportunity to speak with you confidentially and to answer any questions you may have.