RFDS Perth Base, Western Australia
By Ros Higgins
The day of my visit to the RFDS Base at Jandakot Airport in Perth began with the sort of warm bright sunshine that the locals would not find remotely noticeable but was a treat for someone who lives in the UK.
I was met there by Amanda Bott who was only the first of a number of expat Brits who have chosen to head to Perth and now make up the backbone of the RFDS operation in the vast state of WA. In her role as the General Manager of Operations she is tasked with managing the day to day activities of this 24 hour a day base which is one of six in the largest state in Australia and serves a population of 2.5 million people.
Amanda said that recruitment is no problem with adventurous healthcare staff from across Europe and the UK vying for the 1-2 year contracts. The service is staffed by full and part time doctors and nurses, pilots, administrative and maintenance staff who together offer a range of services in addition to aeromedical retrieval including GP clinics, dental services, telehealth, nursing care and managing the medical chests. The base also coordinates the scenario training for WA’s mass casualty incident plan as well as planning the logistical, transport, medical and geographical needs of each emergency case.
One relatively new investment that the WA service has made is in the care of Bariatric patients including specialist hydraulic equipment for aircraft and a gurney to safely transport a person of a maximum weight of 300kgs. Staff regularly undergo specialist training to be able to deal with the complex needs of this high risk group of patients and get to practice in the simulated aircraft and on Barry the life like simulated model
While I was at the base Amanda, head nurse Paul and pilot Damien showed me over the cramped working space on board an aeroplane and described how the staff work inflight. It requires a large onsite team of engineering staff to maintain the fleet of 14 x Pilatus PC 12 turbo prop jets and 1 x Hawker 800 XP jet and in 2018 the fleet will be increased by the addition of a number of technically advanced Pilatus PC 24 jets housed in the new hangar currently under construction on the base.
Another point of interest that Amanda mentioned was the training of more indigenous healthcare staff to supplement the care and nursing staff in the remote area monthly clinics. The RFDS has been in a unique position to collate data about the provision of services to all remote communities and target areas that might benefit from education and prevention programs. This can only lead to the development of a more positive outcome for those who live in the most remote and challenging parts of our great country.
Warmest thanks to the team at Jandakot who took the time to tell me about their role in this wonderful service.
WA RFDS Statistics:
60,000 People assisted a year
9,017 Patients transported
18,013 Patients attending clinics
1,897 Healthcare clinics
37,684 Telehealth consultations
7,764,000 Kms flown