Australia's `Flying Doctor' service this year is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It was started in?
Australia's `Flying Doctor' service this year is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It was started in May of 1928 with the help of the Inland Mission of the Presbyterian Church in an attempt to bring medical aid to the isolated communities of the Australian frontier.
SYNOPSIS: The northwest of Queensland and the area around the Gulf of Carpentaria are now covered by a flying doctor in an aircraft much different from the canvas-covered bi-plane that launched the service. Today, airborne doctors patrol three-quarters of Australia.
The pedal-powered wireless made the service possible. Morse code was used a t first, but was soon replaced by radio telephones, which were installed in 1929.
But now, the radio room at the Mount Isa Flying Doctor Base, with the most modern equipment, is operated all the time, keeping patients in touch with their doctor.
Mrs. Johnnie Smith, wife of a station owner in northwest Queensland, lives 93 miles (150 kilometres) from the nearest doctor. So, she is getting the radio advice of Doctor Clive Alladyce, whose airborne practice covers 115,000 square miles (300,000 square kilometres).
The Flying Doctor Service in the early days depended on luck and charity. Many said it would not work, but today, there are 13 Flying Doctor bases. The radio network and planes ended the frontier's loneliness and isolation and, by the 1940s, the Flying Doctors were almost legendary heroes. Landing strips were often rough and improvised and planes became bogged down in the wet season. There were many forced landings, dramatic rescues and crashes in which pilots and passengers were killed. However, the service became the model for similar operations in other parts of the world, including Canada and East Africa.
Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria is one of 18 stops that Doctor Clive Alladyce makes on his monthly tour, On this occasion, one of the patients was a boy with a badly cut mouth.
From Mornington Island, the next stop is Burketown, where a farmer has a broken leg. Broken bones are common in Australia's cattle country, but, fortunately, medical help is now only a radio call away.
The planes of the Royal Flying Doctor Service are fitted with modern equipment to cope with a wide range of emergency medical situations while in the air. They are also used to take nurses and dentists to families in remote areas. Fifty years ago, this was only an ambition, but today, the airborne medical service is part of the Australian way of life.