Australia’s Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) has announced it will provide care to patients requiring aeromedical transfer between South Australia’s country and city hospitals for another decade following the signing of the its long-term service agreement with the Government of South Australia (SA). The nine-year service agreement, announced on 4 July by SA Minister for Health Jack Snelling, affirms RFDS Central Operations’ position as SA's preferred fixed-wing aeromedical provider for inter-hospital patient transfers.
The RFDS has provided the platform for fixed wing inter-hospital patient transfers to the SA Government since 1991 on a grant and/or cost recovery arrangement, renewed until now on an annual basis. The RFDS said the new long-term agreement provides it with the confidence to move forward on a major capital investment program including aircraft replacement, medical equipment upgrades and the construction of a state-of-the-art aeromedical base at Adelaide Airport.
“Just last month, the RFDS safely transferred its 100,000th patient between [SA’s] country hospitals to Adelaide’s major hospitals for higher levels of care,” Minister Snelling said. “In partnership with SA Ambulance Service, the RFDS is a key player in our State’s best practice service model for a state retrieval and patient transfer service that delivers the right people with the right skill-set to the right people at the right time.”
Under the agreement, subject to strict performance standards and annual reviews, the RFDS will continue to supply its inter-hospital transfer service with aircraft and crews located at its Adelaide and Port Augusta bases. The contract will be managed by the SA Ambulance Service (SAAS), which will triage and coordinate patient transfers across the State.
RFDS Central Operations CEO John Lynch welcomed the signing of the landmark agreement, noting its inter-hospital ‘air ambulance’ service between SA’s regional and city hospitals had become an important extension to the RFDS’s traditional emergency aeromedical and primary health care services in the outback: “In SA alone, from our Adelaide and Port Augusta bases, the RFDS conducts an average of 15 aeromedical flights every day – many of these are the inter-hospital transfer of patients from rural and regional hospitals to Adelaide for emergency or specialist treatment … We have always been honoured to provide this important service to the community, and we applaud the SA Government on its decision to confirm our tenure in this tangible manner so that we can move forward with strategic projects that will enhance our capacity for the finest service delivery in the future.”
Key capital projects identified by the RFDS over the next four years include the replacement of four medically-equipped Pilatus PC12 aircraft in South and Central Australia and the construction of an Aeromedical Centre of Excellence at Adelaide Airport. Lynch explained: “The board of RFDS Central Operations has earmarked a $90-million capital expenditure programme over the next 10 years for the replacement of aircraft, medical equipment and upgraded operational facilities. These major projects are critical to the RFDS maintaining its proven track record of outstanding patient care and the highest safety standards to benefit our staff, health delivery partners and the community we serve.”