Despite border closures, social distancing measures and unprecedented increases in healthcare protocols, The Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS) has navigated 2020 with minimal disruption to its vital healthcare services. PICTURE: SUPPLIED.
Despite border closures, social distancing measures and unprecedented increases in healthcare protocols, The Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS) has navigated 2020 with minimal disruption to its vital healthcare services. PICTURE: SUPPLIED.

Flying doctor transfers 2600+ patients from CQ in 2020

DESPITE unprecedented challenges, the Royal Flying Doctor Service Queensland has navigated 2020 with minimal obstruction to its vital services, flying more than 2600 patients from Gladstone and Rockhampton for treatment.

Patient transfers across the state were on par with 2019, an RFDS spokesman said, with 10,678 patients being flown to emergency or specialist care between January and December 1.

Rockhampton RFDS crews flew 2326 patients in the same period, with the top reasons for transfer being medical conditions related to the heart, sepsis, and appendicitis.

From Gladstone airport, 359 patients were transferred by the RFDS for emergency or specialist care.

The top reasons for Gladstone patient transfers by the RFDS included medical conditions related to the heart, respiratory distress of newborns and gallstones.

RFDS Chief Executive Officer Meredith Staib said it was a challenging year for all healthcare providers.

"This year was unlike anything anyone could have predicted, and I am immensely proud of the way our frontline staff and the whole organisation responded to the pandemic," Ms Staib said.

"Throughout the rapidly developing situation our key focus remained on protecting the communities we serve.

"We rapidly adapted our primary health care service delivery models to meet health safety standards while ensuring patients were still able to access the care they needed."

 

RFDS Queensland CEO Meredith Staib addresses the crowd at the official opening of the patient transfer facility at Gladstone Hospital.
RFDS Queensland CEO Meredith Staib addresses the crowd at the official opening of the patient transfer facility at Gladstone Hospital.

While adhering to strict health guidelines during the height of the pandemic, the RFDS in Queensland drew on the years of trust and confidence it has built with the communities it serves to find ways to deliver primary health care services, including GP and nursing clinics to 94 locations across the state.

More than 25,000 patients accessed these services, from the far north on Cape York, to the south west corner at Birdsville, while more than 15,000 patients accessed health care via the RFDS telehealth service.

The RFDS Dental Service team, while unable to carry out dental consultations during parts of the pandemic-affected year, still delivered oral health care to 1035 patients across 11 outback communities.

Meanwhile, RFDS mental health clinicians delivered 5275 consultations across the Service's three major mental health and wellbeing teams, despite having to shift to a telehealth first model during the height of the pandemic.

While delivering these services across Queensland, RFDS pilots flew a total of 21,542 hours over 7.4 million kilometres, landing at 224 locations.

The RFDS primary care models were adapted in a variety of ways, Ms Staib said.

"This included shifting to telehealth where required, extending stays in community for some RFDS health care staff, heightening of staff PPE protocols, and innovative decontamination processes for our aircraft," she said.

"The RFDS has managed to operate at almost full capacity throughout 2020 without major disruption to service delivery.

"We remained true to our promise to deliver the finest care to the furthest corner of the state."

 

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