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Flying Doctor welcomes federal funding offer

Thursday, 1st April, 2010

* The Prime Minister wants to shore up funding for the RFDS and the Federal Government to become the sole funder of primary health care services. * The Prime Minister wants to shore up funding for the RFDS and the Federal Government to become the sole funder of primary health care services.

By Gina Wilson

The Prime Minister wants the Federal Government to play a greater role in funding the Flying Doctor and to shore up funding for aircraft.

On a visit to the city on Sunday, Kevin Rudd said the current funding model for the Royal Flying Doctor Service was "a dog's breakfast". As part of his new National Health and Hospitals Network, Mr Rudd said he wanted the Government to fund all of the basic GP functions of the service.

"Right now we have something of a dog's breakfast when it comes to the funding arrangements between Canberra and the states for the Royal Flying Doctor Service," Mr Rudd said. "We can do a lot better on that for the future. "For example, I believe the Australian Government needs to become the inclusive funder of all the primary care services delivered by the RFDS."

The RFDS functions in three main areas: primary care, emergency care and patient transfers. An RFDS spokesman said primary care included anything outside traditional emergency or aeromedical work, including remote general practice consultations, GP clinics, dental, nursing and allied health services. The spokesman said the Federal Government now funded 51 per cent of the RFDS's costs, while 23 per cent was given by the NSW Government, with the remaining 26 per cent coming from donations and other income.

"The Federal Government, for example, provides the funding for the Rural Women's GP Service (a primary health care service) and the majority funding for our aircraft (which are used for both emergency and primary health care purposes)," the spokesman said. "Meanwhile, we receive funding from the State Government to perform our inter-hospital transfer work on behalf of the Ambulance Service of NSW."

Executive director of the RFDS Clyde Thomson said a national funding model was welcomed and that it was reassuring to have the prime minister's support. "We look forward to the national funding model," Clyde Thomson said. "It's very assuring to us and to people in the bush to hear your support." Meanwhile Mr Rudd said he wanted to have a more predictable arrangement for funding aircraft.

"This Australian Government has funded 60 per cent of the cost of the aircraft behind us," he said referring to one of the Broken Hill base's planes. "The RFDS operate 56 of these around the nation. We need to have a better and more predictable funding arrangement for them in the future because all Australians, country and city, metropolitan, regional, rural and remote citizens all deserve better health and better hospital services. "That's what working families are saying for us everywhere."

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