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(Australian Associated Press)
With 69 planes covering seven million square kilometres, the Royal Flying Doctor Service has come along way from one plane on loan from Qantas.
Best known for medical retrievals of Australians in some of the most remote parts of the continent, the service will mark its 90th year in 2018.
And as it does, it will continue to evolve and innovate, bringing Australians a broader range of services.
“We want to ensure we take the right services to the right people at the right time, that’s the ambition,” RFDS chief executive John Lynch says.
The services now include mobile pharmacies, a mental health outreach program, oral healthcare clinics and other preventative health schemes.
“The goal is to match any service offered by a metropolitan GP, ” Mr Lynch said.
This means testing for chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases in remote locations, and targeting people before they get sick with advice on diet and exercise plans.
Next year the flying doctor will add new Pilatus PC-24, twin-engined jets to its service offered through bases in WA and SA.
These planes will shorten flying times, lessening the load on crews and helping patients.
“We will be able to have up to three stretcher patients as opposed to the two in the current PC-12,” Mr Lynch said.
The service has made technological leaps in the last few years including digitising medical records and investing more in telehealth consultations.
“The connection of the NBN is significant for us, in terms of e-health,” he said.
It lets them be with the parent via video link, Mr Lynch said.
But at its core, the service is still about ensuring people have a lifeline.
“It is not about your status, position or seniority this is about being a service that touches the lives of all Australians.”