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Help on the horizon
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Help on the horizon

Help on the Horizon

News w/c 8 June 2020

It was the outback motorbike adventure of the year - at least that’s what Andrew Bourne and his motorcycling mates thought. They were enjoying day two of their trip, riding through sweltering heat and thick clouds of dust.

Suddenly out of the haze, an emu appeared in Andrew’s path. With no time to avoid the huge bird, his motorbike hit it head on. Andrew flew 40 metres through the air before landing hard in the dirt.

The nearest medical assistance was 50 kilometres away. ‘I was knocked out,’ recalls Andrew. ‘Fortunately, the Brewarrina ambulance arrived pretty quickly and I was taken for initial examinations. But because I had suspected spinal injuries that they couldn’t scan, they called the Royal Flying Doctor Service’.

With a broken neck, five broken ribs, a torn spleen and substantial bruising, Andrew needed specialist medical attention, fast.

The RFDS airlifted Andrew to Dubbo hospital. There he received the care his injuries required and went on to make a full recovery. Today, Andrew feels grateful for the life-saving help he received from the Flying Doctor. (1)

It’s a feeling that a lot of outback Aussies know; looking to the horizon, either injured themselves or with an injured workmate or family member. Scanning for that familiar dot in the sky as the minutes shuffle by like hours. When it appears, that rush of relief, knowing help is at hand. Later, a sense of good fortune, that the Flying Doctor was there when it counted most.

It’s an idea that gives every outback Australian peace of mind, the idea that whenever they’re in need, there will always be ‘Help on the Horizon’. We hear every day how vital this help is for those who live, work and travel in rural and remote Australia.

The Mantle of Safety

The Royal Flying Doctor Service has been helping outback Australians for nearly 100 years now. That help has been a part of who we are as a nation for so long it’s hard to imagine Australian life without it. Uniquely and proudly Australian, the Flying Doctor is born of outback ingenuity and the belief that everyone deserves quality healthcare, no matter where they live or travel.

Back in the early days, the RFDS was a small group of dedicated doctors and visionaries, doing what they could to harness the new technology of flight to make a difference to the lives of the remotely living outback Aussies.

Our founder, Reverend John Flynn had a vision of a ‘Mantle of Safety’ that would stretch right across Australia’s isolated communities. The early Flying Doctors worked tirelessly to bring Reverend Flynn’s vision to life. Their ‘Mantle of Safety’ has helped countless Australians to survive the accidents, illnesses and emergencies that are part of life in outback Australia.

More than 100 years following, the RFDS has grown considerably. It has become a national icon, inextricably part of Australia’s outback community. As generous donations from the community helped support the cause of Australia’s outback Aussies, the RFDS has been able to significantly expand the scope of what it’s able to do to help.

A new generation of support

As the scope of what we do has evolved, so have the core philosophies that guide us. The mantle of safety remains our guiding principle today

The RFDS today operates with the same dedication that our founders had, with a vastly more complex set of tools to carry out our mission. We use the latest in aviation, medical and communications technology. We’re helped by a great army of donors, volunteers and supporters.

It’s that great communal effort that helps the RFDS span this continent, providing a broader spectrum of support for new generations of outback Aussies. In the South Eastern Section of the RFDS we conduct eight emergency evacuations each month and over 8000 inter-hospital patient transfers each year. But that’s just the ‘tip of the iceberg’. We deliver a wide range of support services beyond emergency assistance, including:

  • Primary health care
  • Dental care
  • Mental Health services
  • Alcohol and other drugs programs
  • Community engagement

We bring neonatal care to clinics for pregnant women isolated in the outback. Even in the remotest parts of the country, we bring specialist Indigenous health services to Indigenous communities.

For all those day to day challenges where we cannot be there in person, we operate a telehealth consulting service. This lets us provide effective remote support right across our vast waiting room of 7.69 million square kilometres.2

If you’re not from Australia’s outback, you may not realise just how much the RFDS does beyond the emergency services that we’re known for. That’s why it can be an exciting discovery for those who get to see it all first-hand.

1. https://www.flyingdoctor.org.au/about-the-rfds/stories/rescued-after-run-emu/

2. RFDS Year in Review 2017/18

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