The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (RFDS) celebrated 80 years of providing health and emergency services to people who live, work and travel in the outback and rural areas in May.
Nationally, the RFDS operates a fleet of 47 aircraft. Each new aircraft costs $7 million to purchase and equip and costs $2.5 million to run, staff and maintain every year.
Aeromedical evacuations are central to to the operations of the RFDS and they provide 24/7 emergency care across over 80% of Australia.
The RFDS flies a growing number of patients from rural and regional Australia to metropolitan hospitals for ongoing treatment and also provides access to Primary Health Care Clinics for those people who live in remote areas. Simple things like routine health checks, immunisation, dental and eye checks would otherwise be extremely difficult for many people.
Twice a year, they run Fly Around Clinics in even more remote areas, taking specialists in fields such as dentistry, dermatology, ophthalmology, mental health and child and family health. We also work closely with indigenous communities to address the poor standards of health that are prevalent amongst those communities.
The Service covers an area of about 7.15 million square kilometers and even in the most remote locations, help from the Flying Doctor is never more than 90 minutes away.
Although the RFDS receives some funding from the government, it relies on the generosity of Australians to fund medical equipment and replacement aircraft vital to continuing the Flying Doctor's essential work in the Outback. In 2007 the Flying Doctors attended more than 242,000 patients, with more than 35,000 aerial evacuations, bringing this huge continent just a little bit closer for people in the most remote areas of Australia.
Flying dentists all part of the service
For many Outback people, the isolation from dental services and lack of fluoridated water has contributed to poor dental health. The first flying dentist, Dr Bob Burns, is reported to have filled more than 120 teeth in one day, working until his foot on the pedal drill gave out through exhaustion! It is not uncommon to hear stories of bygone amateur dentists removing a patient's aching teeth with pliers or battery acid being applied to an abscess. With a dentist often a day's travel away, these desperate solutions were the only option for people in isolated areas. Thanks to the services provided by the RFDS's Flying Dentist, these horrific stories need no longer occur.
As part of the Flying Doctors' primary healthcare clinics, a dentist also visits isolated properties and towns. As well as treating cavities and disease, the dentist also educates patients on oral health and preventative dental care.
Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (South East Section) now has two flying dentists, Dr Lyn Mayne (pictured in action at the top of the page) and Dr Alison Blundell.