Despite its incredible work helping financially struggling country people access medical appointments and services in the city, Angel Flight Australia is still fairly unknown.
This not-for-profit charity helps people living in remote country areas, struggling with health issues, financial hardship and daunting distances by coordinating free, non-emergency flights to get them to their city-based medical appointments.
Patients of all ages seeking medical treatment, can be flown to medical facilities anywhere in Australia, with ground transport in the city also organised for them by Earth Angels. The service can also transport blood and medicine to those in need.
Since launching in 2003, Angel Flight has conducted more than 20,000 flights, helping over 3,000 patients across Australia.
The charity does not receive any Government funding, relying purely on private donations and word-of-mouth, and all pilots are volunteers, operating the service in their own aircraft.
Patients can access Angel Flight services through the referral of their health professional, such as a medical practitioner, nurse or social worker, and it generally takes five to seven working days for an Angel Flight coordinator to organise a flight.
Here, we talk to Angel Flight chief executive officer, Marjorie Pagani to find out more about this incredible charity, which has made a huge difference in the lives of many Aussies.
Who came up with this great idea to provide free medical flights for country people to the city and why?
Angel Flight began in April 2003 and was started by Brisbane businessman Bill Bristow AM who wanted to combine his passion for social care with his love of flying.
If a lot of people want to fly around the same time, is there a maximum number of people you can provide flights for?
No there is no maximum or minimum amount of flights. Our flights are conducted by volunteer pilots and as long as we have pilots offering to do the flights we can assist most people who need to fly. We are not a guaranteed service and we tell passengers this from the start and on the odd occasion we may have to turn a request down because we don’t have a pilot to do the flight but that very rarely happens. Once we receive the request for a passenger to fly, we put it on our website and the pilots can apply for whichever flight/s they wish to do. We have over 3,000 volunteer pilots registered with us. Not all of them are active all of the time and they can choose to do as many or as few flights as they wish.
Are Angel Flight services available for those with disabilities?
Yes. As long as the passenger can get in and out of the plane without assistance from the pilot, they can fly. Most passengers with disabilities fly with a relative or carer who helps them in and out of the plane. People on stretchers cannot fly as our planes are only four to six seaters and not equipped to carry stretchers and people who need medical assistance while on board also cannot fly because we do not have medical staff onboard. We provide non-emergency flights for country people who need to attend non-emergency city medical appointments.
If a family wants to use Angel Flight services, what is the maximum number of people allowed on the aircraft?
It depends on the size and type of the aircraft that the volunteer pilot is using, but most of our planes are four to six seats, and the majority of our flights have two to three passengers. We can usually get our passengers there and back within the same day, so therefore, if a Mum has to take one child for a city medical appointment, she can be back home that same afternoon for her other children and does not need to take the whole family. The majority of our flights are usually the patient travelling with one family member or carer.
Is there any other way for patients to organise an Angel Flight service without going through a health professional?
No. All flight requests must be submitted by a registered Health Professional.
Is everything organised through the patient’s health professional, or does the patient have some part in organising it themselves?
The Health Professional sends us the initial flight request and then the flight is organised by one of our five flight coordinators in the Brisbane office. The flight coordinator then makes contact with the passenger to provide them with the details of their flight.
Will Angel Flight ever look at expanding globally?
Our organisation is called Angel Flight Australia, but there are also Angel Flights in many other countries around the world. America has about six different regional Angel Flights and they were the original ones. New Zealand also has an Angel Flight along with Europe and Canada.
For further information visit the Angel Flight website angelflight.org.au or call Angel Flight on 1300 726 567.