Community Flights Officially Launched!

Community Flights is the brainchild of River Heads (Hervey Bay QLD) Pharmacist Mark McMurtrie & his partner Melissa Lay who has been integral from the beginning bringing her experience in the community sector during her time with the Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre.

This short Podcast with Mark & Melissa reveals even more about WHY this project is so important & how they 'hooked up'!

 


Original 'pre-launch' podcast with pictures can be seen here along with a full Transcript: 

Prefer to read?:  Full Transcript Here!

   

Links to the Community Flights pages & supporters here

TRANSCRIPT:

KAYE: Introduction...
After the last couple of years with so much bad news… here’s something incredibly positive.

A new opportunity for the most needy in our Hervey Bay (QLD) community to be able to get  the specialist or other hospital appointments they need without the pain of road or rail travel.

What is it?  Community Flights. So what’s that?

It’s a new organisation – totally supported by donations – which allows extraordinary River Heads pharmacist Mark McMurtrie to perform a kind of ‘Uber airline’ to help those very much in in need.

Brian caught up with Mark & his partner Melissa to find out WHY this project is so cool.

BRIAN:
Mark McMurtry, community flights!... It's up in the air. We're up, up and away.

 
MARK:
Yes, we're off the ground and that's the way I like to be.

 
BRIAN:
Absolutely fantastic! So how many flights have you done officially since the official launch?


MARK:
Well, we even started before the launch, so we had that flooding recently and we had an email come through and they said we can't get to our appointment.

 
So we thought, you know what, let's just do it.
 
So we've actually done four flights already in the last week or so and we've got many more bookings in this month going forward.
 
BRIAN:
Fantastic. One of the things people have been asking when we tell them about Community Flights, they go… “oh, that's a great idea, but can't you just drive down? Can't you get a train down?”

Why is it so important?

MARK:
Yeah. We found that there are people struggling for many reasons, that the current transport methods are just not suitable and they're having to fall back on using them.

 
So I've had many patients in the pharmacy with pain problems. Even sitting in the car for 3 hours,  4 hours is quite excruciating.
 
So I said to them, Look, I can fly you down in an hour. And that was just enthralling.
 
And there are other things with Immunocompromised patients where public transport is really not the best option for them.
 
BRIAN:
Without naming specific cases, what are some of the issues that people have that warrant the flight?

 
MARK:
Yeah, we're actually hearing quite a few patients with on-going regular transport needs.

 
So one chap we've flown already, he's going down twice a week and that takes a massive toll on them if they have to drive.
 
And we've got other patients, like I was saying, they have to take the bus overnight with the young child. And so 10 or 12 hours, sometimes it's just really uncomfortable, unnecessarily.
 
And we're hoping to relieve them from that.
 
BRIAN:
Now we've got Melissa on the side here who is putting her hand up. Yes Melissa, can I help you? 😊


MELLISSA:
Yes!... So the actual conditions I think you were just asking about, we've got a majority going through cancer treatment or oncology. We have a number that are doing pain trials, so actually going down to get pain medication or pain management.

 
We have a number going down for operations that actually affect their day to day life that they can’t get done here or in rural and remote areas.
 
So, yeah, we've actually had over 45 enquiries in the last week and a half come through with questions about the service. We do try and direct people to the website because they can actually get a copy of the patient transport form off the website.
 
And that does explain quite a lot about what our requirements are for a community flight, the Immunocompromised, that it's an ongoing treatment plan etc.
 
Out of all the requests we've had so far, there’s only been four that we haven't been able to do because they haven't met that criteria. But the great part is we were able to link them up with somebody else.
 
So we actually had Atkinson's (local transport co.) come on board, they’re already running a service that goes directly from the hospital down in Brisbane.
 
We had one gentleman, we had a phone call from his mother, give us a call to see if we could get him the next day. And we were able to call Atkinson's and they were able to pick him up from the hospital and bring him back.
 
So the four that didn't meet the criteria, there are other options out there and we do help them get that as well.
 
BRIAN:
Fantastic… In terms of deciding whether a patient qualifies for want of a better word, I guess that's the word, isn't it?... ‘Qualifies’ to take up the flight. What are some of the criteria?


MARK:
Yeah, that's what we've got on our form, so it talks about the doctor or the clinical practitioner assessing their needs and seeing that, yes, they truly do need our flight because they’ve got regular transport needs, which is taxing on them or they're financially struggling or immunocompromised.

 
They're some of the top requirements.

BRIAN:
This is one plane at the moment…. now, this is your plane, isn’t it?

MARK:
Yes, I am using my plane.

 
BRIAN:
So you've got very deep pockets?

 
MARK:
(laughs) I was lucky enough to save my cookies and save up for a rainy day and I bought myself an aircraft to use… I was actually using it for the pharmacy because I was looking at setting up a flying pharmacy business and unfortunately, the demand and the supply didn't quite meet the need, so I couldn’t make that happen.

 
But the plane was still sitting there and I heard of another need where patients were struggling so we figured we'd put it to good use.
 
MELISSA:
You want to know something funny, Brian? That's how we actually met and I think that's a good little story there!


We actually met from me helping Mark write a grant to do the flying pharmacy. And once we actually put it all together, we realised that it wasn't a viable option at that point.
 
So we thank the grant providing process for how we met.
 
BRIAN:
Fantastic!... And actually, I think you told me this story on the launch day that in fact, you're not a real keen aerial flyer, as it were.

 
MELISSA:
I'm a keen business class flyer in a big plane! But when it comes to a small aircraft, I can't say that I was overly keen. And that was actually our first date.

 
Mark picked me up in his old Subaru with paint stripped off it, so he didn't present as someone that owned a plane. He picked me up in the old Subaru, took me to the airport and I'm looking at this little plane and I’m (normally) a big speaker, I talk a lot and I actually think I said maybe three words the whole flight!
 
MARK:
Well that’s the quietest you've ever been in our whole relationship!! (laughs)


BRIAN:
If this was video, the face that you showed me on the day was like, “oh, my God!!”

 
MELISSA:
Yeah, I think I wasn't a fan. There was no valium, he hadn't set me up with his pharmacy, Not that I take that let's be honest. We got in the plane.

 
Not only am I not a fan of small aircrafts, I’m actually scared of heights. So it was great.
 
But I must admit, I'm now quite a lover of the flight, and I've since got rid of my fear of flying.
 
MARK:
Every seat is a window seat. That's what I say.

 
MELISSA:
The in-flight entertainment is always fun.

 
MARK:
Yeah I'll sing into the mic for you.

 
BRIAN:
Okay so you sing as well?... I've got my guitar in the car.

 
MARK:
Very good…. Frank Sinatra!! 😊

 
BRIAN:
So can you see some kind of expansion here?


MARK:
So what we've got in our plan is we've actually got a three phase plan. At the moment, we're working with what we’ve got, the aircraft and the staff and luckily enough, we've already had some volunteers putting their hands up, and we’re hoping to put them to good use.

 
But in the future, we're looking at making this a broader and more economical way of doing it with larger aircraft that can take possibly more people or take people from further inland.
 
And so we're starting to just meet the needs, what we've got now and then branching out further. We've actually had great support from the Freemasons. In fact they'd like to meet with us and so we're working together on meetings with them, and we'll see where that takes us.
 
BRIAN:
Right… Well, if you need more aircraft, Alan Joyce (QANTAS) has got a few spares I think!

 
MARK:
Is he donating? I don't know. Very good!... (laughs).

 
BRIAN:
All right, well thank you very much for joining us. have you got anything else you want to tell us about community flights?


MARK:
Well, I mean, there's one thing I'd just like to say is that I'm deeply touched by the support I’ve had so far from the community.
 
It's great to see everyone lifting all together to make something happen.
 
And Melissa and I are tirelessly, working hard in the background to continue getting things going and reaching the financial goals, we're doing all sorts of grants and phone calls, but the support we've had is incredible, so thank you from the bottom of my heart.
 
MELISSA:
Yes, I would actually really love to give a shout out to the Bar-Flys (charity group)

 
They come on for $5,000 and the amount of support that that can give to our local community is amazing. It was great to meet with them on our launch day recently.
 
Had some great conversations there and you can just see that their hearts coming from the right place and it's great that we can actually be a part of the great work that they do.
 
And the other thing is probably mentioning that on the last Sunday of every month, we hold the open day at the Hervey Bay Aeroclub, so we'd love to get people down there to have a German sausage, schnitzel & rib, come down and do a great job down there with the food and it's another great way just to have a relaxed environment, catch up, talk to other people in the community and it's a nice relaxing day.
 
BRIAN:
Fantastic… Thank you very much for joining us.

 
MARK:
Thanks for having us.

 

BRIAN:
Mark McMurtry, community flights!... It's up in the air. We're up, up and away.

 
MARK:
Yes, we're off the ground and that's the way I like to be.

 
BRIAN:
Absolutely fantastic! So how many flights have you done officially since the official launch?


MARK:
Well, we even started before the launch, so we had that flooding recently and we had an email come through and they said we can't get to our appointment.

 
So we thought, you know what, let's just do it.
 
So we've actually done four flights already in the last week or so and we've got many more bookings in this month going forward.
 
BRIAN:
Fantastic. One of the things people have been asking when we tell them about Community Flights, they go… “oh, that's a great idea, but can't you just drive down? Can't you get a train down?”

Why is it so important?

MARK:
Yeah. We found that there are people struggling for many reasons, that the current transport methods are just not suitable and they're having to fall back on using them.

 
So I've had many patients in the pharmacy with pain problems. Even sitting in the car for 3 hours,  4 hours is quite excruciating.
 
So I said to them, Look, I can fly you down in an hour. And that was just enthralling.
 
And there are other things with Immunocompromised patients where public transport is really not the best option for them.
 
BRIAN:
Without naming specific cases, what are some of the issues that people have that warrant the flight?

 
MARK:
Yeah, we're actually hearing quite a few patients with on-going regular transport needs.

 
So one chap we've flown already, he's going down twice a week and that takes a massive toll on them if they have to drive.
 
And we've got other patients, like I was saying, they have to take the bus overnight with the young child. And so 10 or 12 hours, sometimes it's just really uncomfortable, unnecessarily.
 
And we're hoping to relieve them from that.
 
BRIAN:
Now we've got Melissa on the side here who is putting her hand up. Yes Melissa, can I help you? 😊


MELLISSA:
Yes!... So the actual conditions I think you were just asking about, we've got a majority going through cancer treatment or oncology. We have a number that are doing pain trials, so actually going down to get pain medication or pain management.

 
We have a number going down for operations that actually affect their day to day life that they can’t get done here or in rural and remote areas.
 
So, yeah, we've actually had over 45 enquiries in the last week and a half come through with questions about the service. We do try and direct people to the website because they can actually get a copy of the patient transport form off the website.
 
And that does explain quite a lot about what our requirements are for a community flight, the Immunocompromised, that it's an ongoing treatment plan etc.
 
Out of all the requests we've had so far, there’s only been four that we haven't been able to do because they haven't met that criteria. But the great part is we were able to link them up with somebody else.
 
So we actually had Atkinson's (local transport co.) come on board, they’re already running a service that goes directly from the hospital down in Brisbane.
 
We had one gentleman, we had a phone call from his mother, give us a call to see if we could get him the next day. And we were able to call Atkinson's and they were able to pick him up from the hospital and bring him back.
 
So the four that didn't meet the criteria, there are other options out there and we do help them get that as well.
 
BRIAN:
Fantastic… In terms of deciding whether a patient qualifies for want of a better word, I guess that's the word, isn't it?... ‘Qualifies’ to take up the flight. What are some of the criteria?


MARK:
Yeah, that's what we've got on our form, so it talks about the doctor or the clinical practitioner assessing their needs and seeing that, yes, they truly do need our flight because they’ve got regular transport needs, which is taxing on them or they're financially struggling or immunocompromised.

 
They're some of the top requirements.

BRIAN:
This is one plane at the moment…. now, this is your plane, isn’t it?

MARK:
Yes, I am using my plane.

 
BRIAN:
So you've got very deep pockets?

 
MARK:
(laughs) I was lucky enough to save my cookies and save up for a rainy day and I bought myself an aircraft to use… I was actually using it for the pharmacy because I was looking at setting up a flying pharmacy business and unfortunately, the demand and the supply didn't quite meet the need, so I couldn’t make that happen.

 
But the plane was still sitting there and I heard of another need where patients were struggling so we figured we'd put it to good use.
 
MELISSA:
You want to know something funny, Brian? That's how we actually met and I think that's a good little story there!


We actually met from me helping Mark write a grant to do the flying pharmacy. And once we actually put it all together, we realised that it wasn't a viable option at that point.
 
So we thank the grant providing process for how we met.
 
BRIAN:
Fantastic!... And actually, I think you told me this story on the launch day that in fact, you're not a real keen aerial flyer, as it were.

 
MELISSA:
I'm a keen business class flyer in a big plane! But when it comes to a small aircraft, I can't say that I was overly keen. And that was actually our first date.

 
Mark picked me up in his old Subaru with paint stripped off it, so he didn't present as someone that owned a plane. He picked me up in the old Subaru, took me to the airport and I'm looking at this little plane and I’m (normally) a big speaker, I talk a lot and I actually think I said maybe three words the whole flight!
 
MARK:
Well that’s the quietest you've ever been in our whole relationship!! (laughs)


BRIAN:
If this was video, the face that you showed me on the day was like, “oh, my God!!”

 
MELISSA:
Yeah, I think I wasn't a fan. There was no valium, he hadn't set me up with his pharmacy, Not that I take that let's be honest. We got in the plane.

 
Not only am I not a fan of small aircrafts, I’m actually scared of heights. So it was great.
 
But I must admit, I'm now quite a lover of the flight, and I've since got rid of my fear of flying.
 
MARK:
Every seat is a window seat. That's what I say.

 
MELISSA:
The in-flight entertainment is always fun.

 
MARK:
Yeah I'll sing into the mic for you.

 
BRIAN:
Okay so you sing as well?... I've got my guitar in the car.

 
MARK:
Very good…. Frank Sinatra!! 😊

 
BRIAN:
So can you see some kind of expansion here?


MARK:
So what we've got in our plan is we've actually got a three phase plan. At the moment, we're working with what we’ve got, the aircraft and the staff and luckily enough, we've already had some volunteers putting their hands up, and we’re hoping to put them to good use.

 
But in the future, we're looking at making this a broader and more economical way of doing it with larger aircraft that can take possibly more people or take people from further inland.
 
And so we're starting to just meet the needs, what we've got now and then branching out further. We've actually had great support from the Freemasons. In fact they'd like to meet with us and so we're working together on meetings with them, and we'll see where that takes us.
 
BRIAN:
Right… Well, if you need more aircraft, Alan Joyce (QANTAS) has got a few spares I think!

 
MARK:
Is he donating? I don't know. Very good!... (laughs).

 
BRIAN:
All right, well thank you very much for joining us. have you got anything else you want to tell us about community flights?


MARK:
Well, I mean, there's one thing I'd just like to say is that I'm deeply touched by the support I’ve had so far from the community.
 
It's great to see everyone lifting all together to make something happen.
 
And Melissa and I are tirelessly, working hard in the background to continue getting things going and reaching the financial goals, we're doing all sorts of grants and phone calls, but the support we've had is incredible, so thank you from the bottom of my heart.
 
MELISSA:
Yes, I would actually really love to give a shout out to the BarFlys Club (charity group)

 
They come on for $5,000 and the amount of support that that can give to our local community is amazing. It was great to meet with them on our launch day recently.
 
Had some great conversations there and you can just see that their hearts coming from the right place and it's great that we can actually be a part of the great work that they do.
 
And the other thing is probably mentioning that on the last Sunday of every month, we hold the open day at the Hervey Bay Aeroclub, so we'd love to get people down there to have a German sausage, schnitzel & rib, come down and do a great job down there with the food and it's another great way just to have a relaxed environment, catch up, talk to other people in the community and it's a nice relaxing day.
 
BRIAN:
Fantastic… Thank you very much for joining us.

 
MARK:
Thanks for having us.


LINKS:


Support this great initiative!

https://www.givenow.com.au/communityflights

*** Special thanks to the Bar Flys Club
for their generous $5,000.00 Donation ***


Check out their Facebook page here!

*** COMMUNITY FLIGHTS PAGES ***


Website:
 

https://www.communityflights.org.au/ 


Facebook: 
https://www.facebook.com/CommunityFlightsLtd 



© 2022 Brian Pickering

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