Rural and remote cases of COVID-19 will be evacuated to bigger centres, with the Federal Government announcing $52.8 million in emergency funding for Australian aeromedical capacity.
Speaking from the Royal Flying Doctors Service base in Dubbo NSW today, Federal regional health minister Mark Coulton said the package would increase the capacity of various aeromedical services to evacuate positive cases.
"This package will increase the capacity to evacuate early COVID-19 cases in remote areas and enable a more effective response if an outbreak occurs," he said said.
"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."
Minister Coulton said during the initial stages the funding would support the evacuation of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases, and should an outbreak occur allow for fly-in respiratory clinics, broader testing and the replenishment of personal protective equipment for front-line staff.
RFDS Federation Executive Director, Frank Quinlan said the additional funding was an important injection to enhance rural and remote retrieval and response capability.
"The RFDS is very thankful for additional support from the Federal Government as part of the national health pandemic response," he said.
"The RFDS has been there for rural and remote communities for generations and is committed to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with all the supports and services necessary.
"This funding will assist us in our preparedness. It gives country Australians confidence and assurance that they are cared for through this pandemic - and the RFDS is ready."
Along with the RFDS, Minister Coulton said the package included funding for CareFlight and other state and territory aeromedical departments to enable more evacuations.
CareFlight chief executive officer Mick Frewen said the funding would enable the not-for-profit to deliver equity in healthcare to the most vulnerable of populations, including remote communities.
Minister Coulton said the funding is part of the Government's $2.4 billion National Health Response Plan for the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Our support for rural, regional and remote communities is about minimising the likelihood of exposure to COVID-19 while increasing the capacity to evacuate early cases and provide a rapid response should an outbreak occur," he said.