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