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Local Flying Doctor the model for success

Tuesday, 5th August, 2008

The service model developed so successfully by the South Eastern Section of the RFDS now appears set to be used throughout Australia.

Visiting RFDS national chairman Tim Fischer yesterday endorsed the SE Section as a leader among the country's six independently-run sections.

Mr Fischer, who touched down in Broken Hill yesterday afternoon, has been studying the various models during an Australia-wide tour of RFDS bases.

The former federal National Party leader and deputy prime minister said the National Council would now look to replicate the model across the country.

"It works," he said.

The SE Section works in partnership with a number of other organisations to deliver services throughout the far west and beyond, including the Greater Western Area Health Service and the Maari Ma Health Aboriginal Corporation. 

It also works with the University of Sydney's Department of Rural Health to provide training to medical students at Broken Hill and Dubbo.

The national tour, which began yesterday and finishes on Sunday, will be one of Mr Fischer's final official duties as national chairman.

He has been appointed Australia's Ambassador to the Vatican and will move to Rome in January.

It's the 80th anniversary of the RFDS and Mr Fischer, who last night attended a civic reception at the BH Regional Art Gallery, is also using the tour to thank staff and supporters.

With 48 planes in service and 35,000 call-outs a year, the Flying Doctor was as busy as ever, according to Mr Fischer, who said it possessed a "great staff that carry the burden."

The avid train buff said rising fuel costs was one of a number of challenges facing a Flying Doctor service that was also changing.

An example of that was the "huge explosion in the mining industry" which has led to a population explosion in some small mining communities.

"The RFDS is part of that equation."

Mr Fischer was given a tour of the $4 million expansion underway at the local RFDS base, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary.

He said an important part of the redevelopment was the new interpretive centre.

"The new facility will draw quite a few tourists," he said. "Full marks to those who have modernised the RFDS who have equipped it for the modern era."

Mr Fischer flies out this morning for Longreach. The tour will also take in Mt Isa, Cloncurry, Alice Springs, Kalgoorlie, Meekathara, Port Augusta, Launceston and Essendon.

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