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RFDS - Royal flying doctor service


Finding the RAC helicopter base was a bit of a challenge, tucked away in a cul-de-sac at the end of the “Helicopter precinct” at Jandakot airport. Though RAC has the naming rights, the service forms part of DFES so is government funded. CHC Helicopters provide the helicopter and flight crew. We spent a fascinating and fact filled hour with Terry, the duty pilot, and Brody, an air crew officer, responsible for operating the hoist and assistant to the St John Ambulance critical care paramedic. A second helicopter is based at Bunbury. The service is on standby 24/7. The helicopters have a range of 200ks though can go further if fuel is available at more remote locations. It is a very tight squeeze if two patients need to be carried. On the tarmac, it was enlightening to see just how much life-saving equipment is packed into a very small space. Responding to road trauma accidents, pilots prefer to land in a paddock, so as not to interfere with other emergency traffic coming by road. The KPI for “Scramble time” is 15 minutes, but is usually only 6 to 9 minutes to be airborne. We soaked up information like sponges, but sponges have holes and alas not all the fascinating facts of the machine and its crew have been retained!

Our second stop was at the Royal Flying Doctor Service, where we were greeted by Michelle, the Marketing Co-ordinator. RFDS is celebrating 90 years. We viewed a video which gave an overview of RFDS WA as well as stories from former patients. From 5 bases WA RFDS reached more than 60,000 people last year, delivering medical evacuations and transfers, and a range of primary healthcare services to remote Aboriginal communities, stations, and mine sites – even Rottnest. 17 aircraft, costing upwards of $4.5 million each, including the Rio Tinto LifeFlight Jet, cover the State. Bought as passenger planes from Switzerland, on arrival in WA they are stripped of seats and refitted, taking over 700 hours for the transformation to meet RFDS specifications. We were able to visit the incoming patient receival area; one at a time climb into the fuselage of the training module – a very cramped space for medical staff to work in; and were fortunate to meet Dr Dave who provided more facts, figures and anecdotes for our brains to absorb! It was great to be able to visit the two discrete facilities, which provide such a vital service to the community, in the one day. We detoured to High Wycombe Tavern for lunch on the way home.

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