Ru­ral health travel

Central and North Rural Weekly - - NEWS - KIRILI LAMB kirili.lamb@ru­ral­weekly.com.au

WHEN Jus­tine Chris­ter­son and her fam­ily moved from Ade­laide to Biloela in cen­tral Queens­land, she was struck by the dif­fi­cult re­al­ity for ru­ral peo­ple in of­ten hav­ing to travel great dis­tances for spe­cial­ist health care.

She swore that, one day, she would do some­thing to ease the bur­den of dis­tance from home, fam­ily and, of­ten, in­come for ru­ral peo­ple trav­el­ling to cities like Bris­bane to ac­cess ser­vices.

Jus­tine runs the Face­book­based in­for­ma­tion and as­sis­tance hub Break­ing down the bar­ri­ers for Ru­ral pa­tients in city hos­pi­tals Bris­bane, with­out fund­ing, and more or less on her own.

See­ing peo­ple stranded, of­ten quite abruptly, of­ten sent with only the clothes they were cur­rently wear­ing, far from home in a strange city that there was a need for a vast ar­ray of ba­sics, from toi­letry pack­ages to in­for­ma­tion around ac­com­mo­da­tion, to a meal to heat up be­tween hospi­tal

vis­its.

Jus­tine has set aside a room in her house’s granny flat, with a wall lined with cu­bi­cle shelves that store a cor­nu­copia of things peo­ple might need from blan­kets to socks to hand­bags.

“I get a lot of do­nated items posted to me: I do care packs; note­books which are re­ally use­ful for some­one car­ing for pa­tients, lip balm which ev­ery­one needs when spend­ing time in hospi­tal, colour­ing in books for adults and chil­dren to keep ev­ery­one oc­cu­pied, gifts that are just nice to lift some­one’s spirit,” Jus­tine said.

She said peo­ple could get in touch and see what sup­plies were needed at any given time, as that changed reg­u­larly. Do­na­tions can also be made at Logan’s Grand Plaza shop­ping cen­tre, which has re­cently nom­i­nated her as a Friend of the Grand Plaza.

Jus­tine said trav­el­ling away from home for health care tended to present a range of is­sues, par­tic­u­larly around added liv­ing ex­penses and loss of in­come.

“For ex­am­ple, if an ex­pec­tant mother has a high-risk preg­nancy, she will be ex­pected to stay in Bris­bane for ap­prox­i­mately six weeks prior to the birth date.

“That can be a huge fi­nan­cial stress on the fam­ily be­cause the fa­ther of the baby then has the choice of com­ing down and stay­ing for the six weeks, and then may not be earn­ing an in­come.

“So there’s peo­ple on re­duced in­come or no in­come as a re­sult of hav­ing to come down to Bris­bane- same as if you are trav­el­ling for an ap­point­ment, peo­ple may have to take time off work with­out pay.

”I pre­pare heaps of frozen meals. Of­ten peo­ple might be stay­ing in ho­tels and all they have is a mi­crowave, and away for sev­eral weeks.

”You can’t live off [pro­cessed] mi­crowave food for­ever, so I make sure I cook up nice nu­tri­tious meals that just make life that lit­tle bit eas­ier.”

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

CITY SUP­PORT: Jus­tine Chris­ter­son of­fers sup­port to ru­ral pa­tients and their fam­i­lies who find them­selves trav­el­ling to Bris­bane for treat­ment.

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