95 Years of Flying High for the RFDS

95 Years RFDS

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) is celebrating its 95th anniversary of operation today, May 17, as the world-famous organisation edges closer to a centenary of service.

As the world’s oldest and most comprehensive aeromedical organisation, RFDS SE (South Eastern Section) CEO Greg Sam said it is with great pride that RFDS is serving more people and communities than ever before with a wider array of health care services.

“The Reverend John Flynn had a vision to provide a ‘mantle of safety’ for the people of the outback and almost 100 years on, his vision continues to be realised,” Mr Sam said.

“It doesn’t matter if you are living, working, or just travelling through outback Australia, if you find yourself in a health emergency, we will be there for you.

“While we began as an emergency retrieval service, today it is about much more.”

From bases at Broken Hill and Dubbo, the RFDS provides more than 85,000 cases of care in and around NSW every year, as well as performing non-emergency patient transfers, interhospital transfers and contracted aeromedical service delivery.

“There are people who receive all of their healthcare needs from the RFDS,” Mr Sam continued. “It’s something we’re extremely proud of, and we thank our volunteers, partners and donors for ensuring we can continue to provide such a comprehensive range of services.”

Mr Sam said that much had changed in the last 95 years, including the cost of delivery, growing complexity of healthcare needs in rural and regional areas, and RFDS’s ability to effect real change.

“What has not changed is our dedication to providing high-quality healthcare to people who would otherwise have very limited access due to their isolation,” Mr Sam added. “We’ve been doing it for 95 years and we look forward to being of service for many more years to come.”

The Barrier Truth contacted Clyde Thomson who served the RFDS SE across 40 years as Pilot, Chief Pilot, Operations Manager and for the final 28 years as CEO. Mr Thomson took us on a historical tour to highlight the significant players who added their touch of genius to making the RFDS what it is today.

“Jimmy Darcy’s fall from his horse during a cattle stampede out of Halls Creek on July 29 in 1917 is where the story of the RFDS begins. He got carted over rough terrain for 80 kilometres for medical attention by the postmaster who treated Jimmy with a penknife, receiving instructions by morse code from a doctor in Perth – Dr Joe Holland.”

“[Lieutenant John] Clifford Peel was a pilot in the Air Force and wrote to Reverend John Flynn in 1917 saying if you used an aircraft, you could actually then travel to the outback to then treat people,” explained Mr Thomson.

“And that was when Reverend Flynn was in Beltana in the Flinders Ranges. Clifford Peel sadly died during World War I so he didn’t hear of how his vision had actually come to reality.

“And so that was how it all started off,” he said. “And then John Flynn was importantly replaced by a fellow called Fred McKay, who was a very smart pastor during the Second World War. So, while John Flynn developed the Flying Doctor Service, Fred McKay was the person who took it to the next level.”

“Now with 90 aircraft Australia wide and 300,000 patients a year, I feel proud to have contributed to the expansion of the RFDS,” Mr Thomson said.

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