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Bundaberg RFDS takes to skies for 20 years

Bundaberg RFDS base
Despite border closures, social distancing measures and unprecedented increases in health care protocols, The Royal Flying Doctor Service has navigated 2020 with minimal disruption to its vital healthcare services. Photo: Royal Flying Doctor Service

The Royal Flying Doctors Service has celebrated 20 years of serving the Bundaberg community, offering medical assistance via air to thousands of patients each and every year.

Before the service started locally in 2002, residents and visitors to the Bundaberg Region who were required to travel for specialist care were relying on aircrafts dispatched from Brisbane and Rockhampton.

It was two decades ago that RFDS bridged that gap in establishing a base in Bundaberg to provide immediate care for residents.

The local base has progressed to become a very busy service and primarily transports people from Bundaberg and the Wide Bay region to Brisbane to receive medical assistance.

Since establishing itself in the region, the RFDS has formed a strong alliance with RACQ LifeFlight Rescue, a partnership that began in 2011 to improve the health of the community.

Together the organisations transport around 3500 patients a year.

Reliance on the RFDS has continued to grow in the region.

In 2011, the Bundaberg base completed 2747 landings, when compared to the last year where the number rose to 3091.

What began as a team of four pilots and four flight nurses has since grown to six pilots, nine flight nurses and three admin staff.

Bundaberg Base Support Manager Jennifer Bruce said while she had only been part of the local team for just under a year, she still felt a deep sense of pride to be part of the 20-year milestone that coincided with the organisation's centenary.

“It’s a momentous milestone, twenty years for Bundaberg Base and RFDS nearing its 100 year anniversary,” Jennifer said.

“It demonstrates how we are truly entwined in the fabric of the local community providing an important service to so many community members in their time of need.

“We make a difference in the lives of so many and so many make a difference in enabling us to provide the life support service we provide.

“I look forward to celebrating the dual milestone celebration of RFDS Bundaberg Base supporting the community and the community supporting RFDS.”

Serving the community

More than just a medical service, the RFDS has been there for the community in times of need over the past 20 years, turning their hangar into a makeshift ward in 2013 when floods devastated the region.

Since then, the hangar has moved to what is now known as the Bundaberg Aeromedical Base, which allows both the RFDS and LifeFlight to deliver an even greater level of care through their Patient Transfer Facility.

This new area accommodates patients while they wait to move on to or off an aircraft.

RFDS Bundaberg Manager of Clinical and Base Operations Robyn Langton said it allowed the hundreds of patients who had already transferred through the facility to do so in more comfort than previously available.

“A real benefit of the new base is the Patient Transfer Facility, which allows us to care for patients in a comfortable, clinical environment inside the base while they wait for ongoing transfer,” Ms Langton said.

“Previously, patients often had to wait on a stretcher on the tarmac or inside the aircraft.”

Over the years, the Beechcraft planes have continued to be the aircraft of choice for the RFDS, with the Beechcraft Super King Air 200 (B200) planes in use when the RFDS first started.

The Beechcraft King Air 360CHW turboprop aircraft (B360) then took over in 2021.

The future of RFDS Bundaberg

RFDS new Flight simulator
In early 2020 the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) showcased preliminary plans for its world-class Aeromedical Retrieval Simulation Hub to be built in Bundaberg. Photo: www.flyingdoctor.org.au

Looking to the future the team is excited to see the building of their new flight simulator which will train their pilots and aircrew to be proficient in the Beechcraft King Air 360s.

The new flight simulator, to be located in Bundaberg, will also be the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

The RFDS look forward to continuing to work within the Bundaberg Region, seeing continued investment into providing local opportunities and keeping the local community safe.

You can find out more about the RFDS Bundaberg Base and the work they do here.

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