First on the agenda for July 26, 2011 we traveled to Broken Hill Base where the Royal Flying Doctor Service is located. The Royal Flying Doctor Service provides 24 hour emergency retrieval and 24 hour telephone and radio GP consultations (1).
It was started by John Flynn, who is featured on the twenty-dollar bill, 82 years ago. Eighty percent of Australia is covered by RFDS. RFDS is 2/3 government-funded, but that is only the operating costs the rest is fundraising and donations. Broken Hill is 1 of 21 base RFDS, but Broken Hill is the only one with dental services. It is staffed with eight doctors, six flight nurses, five pilots, five engineers, a dentist, a medical secretary, and 23 administrative staff. This service provides coverage for approximately 640,000 square kilometers of Australia, which includes west NSW, southwest QLD and eastern and northern South Australia (1). Broken Hill RFDS provides an ambulance service for a 100 kilometer radius. They are equipped with four plans each of which cost eight million, six million for the plane itself and another 2 million for the extra facilities needed. Broken Hill RFDS provides a specialist clinic three times a year and also has clinic runs Monday thru Friday from 7am to 7pm. The main goal of RFDS is to aid those in need of emergency medical assistance and also improving accessibility of health care services.
After that we went to the Broken Hill City Council. The city of Broken Hill is home to one of the richest lead, iron, and silver deposits. One hundred and thirty million tons of ore have been mined in Broken Hill. It is called a “Living Museum” because the majority of the city is historical instead of just one building. The city’s population is around 20,000 people, which is a number they want to keep around. The city is about 179 square kilometers, which is home to many resources including mining, tourism and heritage. The city receives around 300,000 tourists per year for mining and service industry. The minimum temperature of Broken Hill is around 40.64°F and the maximum temperature is around 91.58°F. The average annual rainfall is about 9.56 inches. Broken Hill is a semi-desert area and has experienced many problems with water evaporation. The water is supplied by the Darling River and is managed by Essential Water. There are currently no water restrictions in place, but there has been in the past due to long periods of drought. The city realized the need to conserve water and even after the water restrictions were taken off they only use half of the amount available for extraction. The city council consists of ten council members including the directly elected mayor and they staff 237 permanent employees. They continue to work with the community to maintain the character.
After speaking with the City Council we went over to Essential Water. They provide water to the city of Broken Hill. They receive 20-25% water from reservoirs and the rest from the Darling River. The piping from the river is above ground with about six pumping stations along the way. They try to use gravity whenever possible to cut back on energy. Other ways they save energy is by using their electric pumps in the offset hours and educating the public. Essential Water hosted a program that taught the public about saving water where they gave away water efficient shower and sprinkler heads.
The treatment process consists of first adding aluminum sulphate, then sedimentation process, then sand and carbon filtration, and then last are the disinfectants. Aluminum sulphate is commonly called alum, which is added to the water at a rate of about 100 parts per million. Once it is mixed into the water the alum starts attracting the suspended material making them fall to the bottom also known as sedimentation. After this the water passes through the sand and carbon filters where the remaining fine materials are filtered out. The filters are backwashed removing the caught materials every 24 hours. After the filtration process the water is palatable, but not potable. Palatable means free of taste and smell, while potable means safe to drink. To make the water potable disinfectants are used. The first disinfectant is chlorine which kills bacteria. Lime is another disinfection added to control the pH levels. UV disinfection is used to get rid of the cloudy color from the river water. Fluorine is also used to reduce dental decay. In most cases the water is ready after the disinfection process, unless there are high salinity levels. Reverse osmosis pushes water through a membrane from an area of high concentration to a low concentration and is used for water with high salinity.
A few of us decided to go to the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery in the afternoon. We were able to see art that was part of a contest. The contest is called the Outback Open Art Prize and the art addressed the theme of the Australia Outback. The contest was judged by Michael Rolfe, Chief Executive Officer, Museums and Galleries. The Art Gallery also had a section of permanent art, some of which was indigenous art. It was a unique experience and we also got to meet a young man that played the didgeridoo on an episode of The Amazing Race.
Last but not least a special shout out to Flick, you will be missed. Thank you for everything!