Remote care: taking flight everywhere

Pic: The RFDS Medi-Jet 24 takes flight

For many Australians living in metropolitan areas, medical help in the case of an emergency isn’t a challenge of distance. But for the 7 million Australians - about 29 per cent of the population - who live in rural and remote areas, distance has a cost. Time can make a fatal difference.


The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) has been an integral part of healthcare for people who live and work in or travel to rural and remote Australia for more than 90 years. On any given day, the RFDS will airlift more than 100 patients across the country to hospital and specialist care.

On top of aeromedical retrieval, the RFDS also offers GP and nurse clinics, dental care, vaccinations and mental health services to the community. And as many rural Australians deal with the fallout of ongoing drought conditions and worsening natural disasters, the efforts of the RFDS are needed more than ever.


“You never know what job you're going to,” says RFDS Central Operations Nursing Director Vikki Denny.


“You might be going to pick up a two-year-old with asthma in Ceduna one flight and then you’re off to get a cardiac patient in Streaky Bay. Then you might have a labouring lady in in Kangaroo Island. We use our skills all over the place - you never know when you're going to need them,” she says.

Pic: RFDS flight paths

Jet era


With 75 aircraft in the fleet, the RFDS is Australia’s third-largest airline. The service continually innovates with its fleet as technology in the aeromedical field improves to provide better options for in-air care.


Now the RFDS has entered the jet-era, launching the Medi-Jet 24 - the world’s first purpose-built aeromedical jet.


Partnering with Pilatus Aircraft, the RFDS designed the medical interior of the Medi-Jet 24 to replicate an intensive care unit. Other features include single pilot operation, having the ability to land on dirt air strips which can, in many instances, halve critical mission times.


“From the base in Adelaide, we can [now] reach anywhere in Australia without refueling,” says RFDS Executive General Manager, Marketing & Public/Stakeholder Relations, Charlie Paterson.


“In its first 100 days of operational service, the Medi-Jet 24 has performed 78 air medical missions, flew over 100,000 kilometres and, most importantly, airlifted 128 patients from 21 locations throughout Australia.”


Vikki recalls one of the first jobs the RFDS completed with the Medi-Jet 24 was taking a very unwell woman from Alice Springs to Melbourne. “She [had a] brain infection and required further surgery so that speed in getting her from Alice Springs to the eastern seaboard made quite a difference in her recovery. She did very well in her recovery,” she says.


However, it’s not just remote Australians who receive care from the RFDS. Almost 5 per cent of patients airlifted from South Australia have an Adelaide postcode – that metropolitan service might rushing babies to Melbourne for heart surgery or taking organ recipient transfers interstate.




The RFDS Central Operations has been an ANZ customer for more than 60 years and the bank works closely to help finance new aircraft – including the Medi-Jet 24.


“We're experts in medical care in rural and remote Australia but we're not experts in finance,” says Charlie. “We purchased [the Medi-Jet 24] in US dollars and worked very closely with ANZ [who gave] us advice on how to hedge our money. That made an enormous impact on the actual cost that we purchased the aircraft for.”


Personally, having grown up in regional Australia, I can certainly relate to the services the RFDS provide. To have the comfort and knowledge the RFDS is there and has your back in critical times certainly gives people peace of mind.


Brendan Rinaldi is State General Manager for Business Banking in SA & NT for ANZ

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