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RFDS fund plea

Thursday, 7th November, 2013

By Andrew Robertson

The RFDS says it is “very encouraged” by talks with the State Government that could finally end a $2 million annual shortfall in funding.

South Eastern Section CEO Clyde Thomson said yesterday the government had agreed to work with it over the coming year to develop a “more sustainable” funding model.

Both the NSW and Federal governments provide funding to the aeromedical organisation for a range of activities.

The Federal Government funds pre-hospital evacuations and the running of healthcare clinics while the cost of inter-hospital transfers is met by the State. 

But Mr Thomson said the level of funding the Section received from both governments fell well short of the cost of providing the services.

“The RFDS is having to put in over $2 million a year to meet the shortfall in government funding,” Mr Thomson said.

“It’s been going on for some years.”

He said the shortfall meant the RFDS was being underpaid for services that government would otherwise have to provide.

Negotiations would centre on increasing funding to a level that “accurately reflects the cost of the activities”. 

“We applaud the State for commencing these negotiations on behalf of the RFDS to resolve the issue,” Mr Thomson told the BDT.

Asked if he was confident the RFDS would receive the full increase it was seeking, he said: “We are very encouraged by the negotiations we are having with NSW Health.”

The SE Section is also seeking a single agreement with the State to cover all inter-hospital transfers from Broken Hill and Dubbo.

Now there are five agreements in place to cover transfers from hospitals within the Far West Local Health Network and Western Area Health Service.

Speaking ahead of the Section’s annual general meeting today, Mr Thomson said the change would result in greater efficiency and transparency “about what we provide”.     

The talks come as the SE Section moves to expand its presence in the Far West to meet an increase in demand for its primary healthcare services. 

SE Section president John Milhinch said primary healthcare now accounted for 70 per cent of the Section’s services.  

In the last year the total number of health clinics run by the Section was up 13 per cent and other clinics were up 47 per cent.

The Section recently confirmed plans to convert the BH base into a dedicated medical clinic using a $500,000 federal government grant.

“The goal is to set up the Broken Hill Base for the next 10 to 15 years, allowing it to accommodate future change, without the need for additional major capital investment in aircraft or buildings,” Mr Thomson said.

“Dubbo Base is also set to become an integrated primary health service centre based on the medical model that has been developed in Broken Hill.”

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