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Royal Flying Doctor Service celebrates 90 years of service and innovation

After 90 years of service, the RFDS has saved millions of lives across Australia

In celebration of its very first flight, the world’s first flying doctor service celebrates 90 years of life-saving innovation with 25 historic aircrafts taking to the skies.

The pilgrimage has demonstrated how far the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) aeromedical service has progressed and followed the route pilot Arthur Affleck and Dr Kenyon St Vincent Welch took to save two lives the first night in operation.

The RFDS first took flight with a leased Qantas plane in 1928 to save those living in rural Australia who would have to travel hundreds of kilometres by horse or cart to reach a doctor, often dying before they got there.

The growth of the RFDS was rapid and soon reached out across Australia. By the 1930s, the RFDS was quickly operating across the country.

With innovative designs, RFDS has continually invigorated rural healthcare and significantly improved quality of access to medical attention. The innovation can be tracked right back to their beginnings, with Alfred Traeger’s pedal powered radios.

This pedal powered radio was recognised as a fundamental element in the inception of the RFDS in Australia to allow people in rural areas to contact the service no matter what. Transistor receivers later replaced the radios but the innovation continued.

In the 1950s, the RFDS was acknowledged by former Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies as, “Perhaps the single greatest contribution to the effective settlement of the far distant country that we have witnessed in our time.”

Now, 90 years later, the RFDS are still instrumental in saving lives in rural Australia.

Stewart and wife Ronda, who have chosen to not have their surnames recorded, said the RFDS gave Stewart a second chance at life after a motorcycle accident saw him sustain a brain injury causing hemiplegia that affected movement of the limbs.

“They’ve always been my heroes,” said Stewart. “I wish I could tell them I’ve had a good life, thanks to them.”

The RFDS was awarded $327 million in funding by the federal government in the 2018 budget. This boost will enable the service to start new programs, improve healthcare staff numbers across the country, and target bulk billing incentives in rural Australia.

RFDS CEO Dr Martin Laverty said, “This funding commitment enables continued emergency care, visiting health clinics, telehealth, and medicine distribution bf the RFDS across remote Australia.”

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