Base Manager at the Royal Flying Doctors Service in Broken Hill, Steve Martin, talks about the aeromedical technology and innovations born in this remote outback city.
“My background is in aeronautical engineering, and it was always my dream to work for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). Broken Hill has played an integral role in the advancement of the RFDS over the years. Being so central geographically meant that a lot of operations and developments came from here.
One of the first major innovations was the pedal-powered radio that allowed remote stations without power to connect to the RFDS. And while that was developed for the RFDS, it had the double benefit of facilitating school of the air and sending general messages, so therefore improved people’s quality of life significantly.
We also invented the body chart, so remote patients could communicate their condition to the healthcare worker on the other end of the radio. This is still being used today, in Australia and around the world.
In the 1970s the RFDS first modified King Air aircraft for medical purposes, and the company now sells aeromedical craft around the world. We can now do full intensive care in the air, which of course saves lives.
With the development of smart phones we are also able to consult with patients remotely; they can quickly and easily send photos of their injuries and this has helped us reduce primary evacuations.
We are also seeing a lot more palliative care in the bush with video calls – that’s a new way of treating people that has been quite effective. Video conferencing also allows patients to communicate with specialists in capital cities, something that will only improve as internet connectivity does.”
Visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service Bruce Langford Visitor Centre at Broken Hill Airport for a closer look at the wonderful technological advancements of the RFDS in Broken Hill.