24 May 2012
of the Legislative Council
FLYING DOCTOR SERVICE
FINCH (Rosevears) - Madam
President, I am going to talk today about the Royal Flying Doctor
Service. I have just been imagining how it would be to live on
Rattray - You would be
very lucky if you did.
FINCH - Well, if you
discovered that your child had severe meningitis or maybe a tractor
had caused grief to a member of the family, or if you lived at
Wynyard and you had a critically ill baby who needed urgent surgery
in Melbourne or something like that, where does the help come from?
In February 1997, the first flight from the Royal Flying Doctor
Service's new base at the Launceston airport did fly a critically ill
baby from Wynyard to Essendon for urgent surgery.
Tasmanian section of the service was formed much earlier than that,
in fact in 1960, although emergency medical planes were operated in
Tasmania long before that, going back to the 1930s. The founding of
the service in Launceston was partly due to the efforts of Mr Laurie
Shea. Some in this House might still remember Laurie Shea, the
secretary of health at the time, supported by the then minister for
health, Dr Spot Turnbull. It initially used chartered light aircraft
with unpaid aero club pilots.
went to an open day last Sunday at the RFDS Launceston airport base,
to celebrate the 84th national anniversary of the flying doctor
service. Also, this year is the 100th anniversary of the founding of
the Australian Inland Mission, which later became the Royal Flying
Doctor Service and was founded by the Reverend John Flynn. John Flynn
witnessed the daily struggle of pioneers living in remote areas where
two doctors provided the only medical care for an area of almost 2
million square kilometres. I would like to quote from the Royal
Flying Doctor Service website:
vision was to provide a 'mantle of safety' for these people and on
15th May 1928, his dream had become a reality with the opening of the
Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service (later renamed the
Royal Flying Doctor Service) in Cloncurry, Queensland.
the next few years, the RFDS began to expand across the country.
is a story of an inspiration about this airborne service that does
have quite a sad ring to it. In 1917, during World War I, John Flynn
received a letter from Lieutenant Clifford Peel, a Victorian medical
student with an interest in aviation - the young airman was fighting
in Europe - and he suggested the use of aviation to bring medical
help to the outback. Unfortunately, Lieutenant Peel was shot down in
France; he died at the age of 24 never knowing that this letter to
John Flynn had become the basis for the creation of the flying doctor
service. For the next 10 years, Flynn campaigned for an aerial
medical service and his vision became a reality when a long-time
supporter left a very large bequest which enabled them to get the
first aircraft was a timber and fabric de Havilland single-engine
biplane leased from Qantas. Of course, as we learned at school, the
service was made more efficient because of the invention of a
pedal-operated generator that powered a radio receiver, the almost
mythical pedal radio. No, I didn't work there.
FINCH - Many people
associate the service with outback Australia but, as the service
points out, there are people living in rural Tasmania and on the
surrounding islands who are just as isolated and they have just as
much need of access to medical care as those living in the outback.
As I mentioned in my introduction, imagine the feeling of isolation
of someone on a Bass Strait island, facing a medical emergency
without the flying doctor service.
RFDS SES has other functions in Tasmania apart from medical
retrieval. It is expanding primary health care for the Bass Strait
islands under the commonwealth Department of Health which provides
$1.1 million a year in addition to the state DHHS funding for primary
health care for the islands' populations. It manages more than 80
consulting sessions a year by a GP in rural Tasmania. The service's
Launceston airport base, which is now secure for the foreseeable
future, operates a King Air B200 aircraft with a team of six pilots,
two engineers and a base manager, and it is closely integrated with
other medical retrieval services like Ambulance Tasmania.
open day on Sunday was a wonderful day. The ABC was there, and many
might have heard Chris Wisbey giving his report. I had the
opportunity to interview quite a few people like Lindsay Miller OAM
who is the Royal Flying Doctor Service Tasmania section life member.
I also interviewed Dr George Merridew, the President of the RFDS. It
was an interesting day and there will be more open days in the