Photo Caption: Pictured at the recent announcement of a $52.8 million aeromedical retrieval package – Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government and Member for Parkes Mark Coulton (centre) with RFDS Federation Executive Director, Frank Quinlan (left) and RFDS South Eastern Section CEO, Greg Sam (right).
Critical medical support during COVID-19
Early last week I announced a $52.8 million aeromedical retrieval package at the Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS) base in Dubbo.
This package will increase Australia’s aeromedical capacity to evacuate COVID-19 cases in remote areas and enable a more effective response if an outbreak occurs.
COVID-19 is affecting every Australian – no matter where they live – and we’re putting in place measures that will support regional Australians to get through this pandemic.
This package will boost the ability to provide medical evacuations for patients in remote and rural areas across Australia by up to 50 per cent.
During the week it was my great pleasure to also share the news that contracts have been signed to pave the way for a GP-led COVID-19 respiratory clinic to open in Dubbo.
I met with Dr Sunil Jacob of Dubbo Medical and Allied Health Group, which will be assembling the clinic, and Dr Daniel Stewart of the Dubbo Hospital Emergency Department. It’s clear to see what a great difference the respiratory clinic will make to the community once it opens in the near future.
Elective surgery restrictions eased
National Cabinet has agreed with the health advice that we are in a position to reintroduce some elective procedures.
From this week, the availability of elective surgery will be increased in a safe and carefully considered way which ensures the wellbeing of both patients and healthcare workers.
This is possible due to the strong collaboration across governments to build capacity and strengthen the health system to reduce the threat of COVID-19.
Through our containment measures we have successfully suppressed the virus: closing our borders, testing, tracing, and in particular, the social distancing and isolation. These continue to be our strongest weapons against the coronavirus.
Reintroduction of elective surgery will be done using a staged and controlled process which balances the ongoing need for the capacity to treat COVID-19 patients, while allowing our hospitals to treat elective surgery patients.
Last Friday, the Prime Minister also shared further updates, including advice that social distancing between students in schools is not required. The Prime Minister also reiterated that in the current, third stage of the virus, we need to be wary of community transmission.
3 million additional flu vaccines
The Australian Government has secured three million additional doses of seasonal influenza vaccines to protect Australians from the flu, bringing the total number of flu vaccines available for Australians to 16.5 million for 2020.
These additional three million flu vaccines will be available through GPs and community pharmacies over April, May and June. This includes approximately two million doses of the quadrivalent vaccine, Afluria Quad®.
I got my flu shot in early April and I encourage everyone to do the same throughout April and May, unless they have a medical reason that would prevent them from getting a vaccine.
You can contact your GP or community pharmacy to book in for your flu shot.
Whilst a flu vaccination does not prevent against COVID-19, vaccinating against the flu saves and protects lives and is particularly important this year due to COVID-19.
Free COVID-19 support line for seniors
Senior Australians, their families and carers can now call a dedicated free call support line aimed at supporting the mental health of those impacted by the spread of COVID-19.
The phone line will be staffed with advisers who can offer practical help and advice.
This is an important initiative that reinforces the message of support for those in isolation, particularly if contact with family or friends is limited.
I urge people to call this support line if they are feeling lonely or distressed, troubled or confused, or need to talk to someone about their concerns caring for a vulnerable person during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The support line will operate Monday to Friday, except public holidays, from 8.30am to 6pm.
It has been established by the Federal Government in conjunction with the Council on the Ageing Australia, National Seniors Australia, the Older Persons Advocacy Network and Dementia Australia.
Call the COVID-19 support line on 1800 171 866.