Flying Doctors expand mental health services

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) will roll-out their extended mental health services across South Australia this month, reaching more remote areas than before.

The new program will see mental health workers visiting outback and remote communities without facing long travel times to provide services, after new funding was announced last year by the federal government.

Tony Vaughan, chief executive officer of RFDS Central Operations said the flying doctors already had a long history in caring for those rural and remote.

“The Flying Doctor has a long history in caring for rural and remote residents with mental illness. In response to growing demand for extra services, the RFDS is now able to offer services to more communities,” he said. 

“Remote Australians see mental health professionals on average at one fifth the rate of city people.

“Some parts of country Australia have no registered psychologists,” he said. 

“Seeing a mental health worker can mean hours of travel, which is a barrier to getting help when it’s needed.” 

The program will run alongside existing RFDS emergency aeromedical services and ‘fly-in’ GP, health care nurse and oral health programs.

The SA mental health team will be located at the Port Augusta base, and travel to the state’s far North and North West regions.

The Telehealth program, which allows some patients to skype through to a doctor,  also aims to aid access to mental health care and will play a part in the new service, but will work on a case-by-case basis to meet needs of patients.

Currently, the RFDS provides mental health services through its integrated Port Augusta Primary Health Care Service, with only a single mental health nurse funded by the SA Country Primary Health Network.

The funding is part of a $84 million federal program announced in March of 2018.