Helping doctors get to the bush

  • Bjarte Sorensen at Coober Pedy
    Bjarte Sorensen at Coober Pedy
  • Owen Crees about to take flight from Coober Pedy to Adelaide
    Owen Crees about to take flight from Coober Pedy to Adelaide
  • Dr Sorensen with patient Colin Williams -a farmer from Smoky Bay, Eyre Peninsula
    Dr Sorensen with patient Colin Williams, a farmer from Smoky Bay, Eyre Peninsula
By
Clarissa Wright
Media Officer,
Angel Flight
Issue
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Moving from Norway to South Australia has been a welcome change for Rural Generalist Dr Bjarte Sorensen who feels a strong sense of purpose in the remote areas where he treats rural patients in need.

Passionate about the need for better access to health care in the bush, Dr Sorensen received his permanent residency in May 2023 and has been working in South Australian communities such as Ceduna, Coober Pedy and Cleve where he says his patients are among the most grateful, he has encountered.

“The patients in these communities express such gratitude for seeing a doctor because they are so accustomed to going without. Continuity is something people in these communities really respond to and so they are excited to know I am coming back, and they can see me again in a few weeks!“

“Although telehealth has its benefits, there is no substitute for seeing a patient in person. It allows the quality of care they deserve and provides the opportunity to get to know the patient,” said Dr Sorenson.

With only three flights available per week, getting to location to start his locum is not without challenge and recently Angel Flight was called upon to help transport Dr Sorensen from Coober Pedy back to Adelaide where he resides.

Long standing Angel Flight pilot and Chair of the Board, Owen Crees, was Dr Sorensen’s ride that day when the only commercial flight available was full. He gladly flew the doctor home, learning about his journey from Norway, his love for the Australian outback and commitment to rural patients in need.  

Over the years, Owen has flown many doctors in and out of remote areas across Australia and says there is a strong need for direct and on demand health professional transport.

Around 7 million people live in rural and remote areas with data showing these people have higher rates of hospitalisations, deaths, injury and also have poorer access to, and use of, primary health care services, than people living in cities*. (ABS 2022c). https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/rural-remote-australians/rural-and-remote-health

To date, Angel Flight has serviced around 340 communities across Australia, ensuring everyday people living in the bush get access to care and support in the same way as those living in the city. Alongside this mission, Angel Flight have established a partnership with medical groups to assist in the transportation of health professionals into rural and remote areas.  

To make transportation available on demand and encourage more medical professionals to work and ‘live’ in the bush, the charity is aiming to raise funds to purchase a high-speed aircraft to base in every capital city and in Cairns.

Understanding the desperate need for more doctors in rural and remote areas, Dr Sorensen strongly supports Angel Flight’s pursuit.

“It would bring great convenience to me and my patients if I could get more direct flights to the location where I am based. It would mean I spend less time driving and more time treating patients. It’s time away from family and precious time that I could spend with rural patients in need.”

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