Australia's Flying Doctors Struggling For Funds

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Despite growth in donations to the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) of Australia -- contributions have nearly doubled in the last five years -- the outfit is still not able to provide the services required by remote patients in need, the Adelaide Advertiser reported on Tuesday. The group receives some government support but must raise its own money to pay for the repair, maintenance and replacement of its entire fleet of 44 aircraft. "Last year the Service flew over 16 million kilometres [almost 10 million miles], therefore these aircraft need to be replaced on a systematic basis, to ensure that they are safe and economical to operate," says the RFDS. The cost of replacement aircraft has almost doubled since 1997, says the group, due both to the exchange rate of the Australian dollar and the rising cost of aircraft. RFDS spokesman John Tobin told the Advertiser that requests for service also have been rising, from not only rural residents but urban Australians who are traveling in remote regions and in need of medical care.

He added that the expectation of onboard medical services is also increasing, and the RFDS needs more money to provide defibrillators and other medical gear onboard. "In the next four years, we will spend $30 million on aircraft, medical equipment and upgrades to our facilities," Tobin said. "That's indicative of the financial requirement and a lot of that will come from fundraising."