Milestone achievement for RFDS community transport

November 24, 2023 BY

Takes the cake: RFDS patient transport client Charlie Miller cuts a celebratory cake surrounded by volunteers at an event to mark the expansion of services. Photo: SANDRA JAMES

PEOPLE involved with the Royal Flying Doctor Service Community Transport program have simultaneously celebrated the expansion of the service at events across Victoria last weekend, including Heathcote.

Volunteers, patients, and community members gathered in unison in 10 different locations for video presentations and morning tea.

The first patient transport service in Victoria run by the RFDS started at Heathcote in 2018 and then at Rochester two years later.

“Now it has expanded to 10 locations in the last 12 months. It is an amazing achievement,” said volunteer driver Paul Biskupak, who has been with the service since it began.

“There are services in Cobram, Foster, Lakes Entrance, Numurkah, Robinvale, Sale, St Arnaud and Warracknabeal as well as Rochester and Heathcote.

“The service recently clocked up one million kilometres which is the equivalent of 67 times around Australia.”

Attendees at the event viewed a video presentation from leaders of the different sites speaking in praise of volunteers and another by a cancer patient who has been helped by the service.

“They are angels without wings,” the patient said. “I can stay in my own home with my dogs and have peace of mind.

“Your home is your castle and a large part of the healing process.”

Mr Biskupak paid tribute to other volunteers who have been with the Heathcote service from the beginning.

“Greg Ganino, Steve Waghorne, Bert Redstone, Colin Wright, Mark Jeavons, Lorraine Ryan, Willie Laird have all achieved five years of service,” Mr Biskupak said.

“They and all the other volunteers have done a great job in meeting community needs and improving the health and wellbeing of the community.

“The volunteers all report that doing what they do is good for their own health and they find it very satisfying to engage with others.”

Although unable to attend, Sandy Whytcross, who’s the customer and consumer relationship manager at Heathcote Health, sent a message of gratitude.

“I want to thank you all for ‘flying’ in and landing at Heathcote. I have been very privileged to be involved with the RFDS from the beginning of the Community Transport Program,” she said.

“I know how beneficial and life changing this service has been to the many people who use it, not only is it a service that takes people to appointments but it is an outing, a social connection and highlight of the day to many.”

The transport service has had an impact on the community.

“The RFDS Community Transport model was borne of a need that was identified for the Heathcote Community,” said Michelle Chapman, executive assistant and volunteer coordinator at Heathcote Health.

“It was often difficult for clients, patients, residents and families to attend health related appointments.

“Heathcote is in Central Victoria geographically, but I like to think we were chosen to undertake this RFDS Community Transport Pilot because Heathcote is the heart of Victoria.

“We have received feedback from the community saying that if it wasn’t for the RFDS Community Transport they would not have attended lifesaving treatments or appointments.

“RFDS Community Transport is saving lives.”