Frontier Services cares for Andamooka’s greatest treasure

06 October 2011

Di Bilka_checking_a_patients_throat

If you ask anyone in Andamooka what is the most precious asset in the small outback town, the answer will be the same - and it is not anything to do with Opals.

It is the people.

Members of the Andamooka community have a special way of looking out for each other, particularly the older generation.

This informal but sturdy network of support is backed up by Frontier Services which has provided services in Andamooka for 46 years.

“Everybody looks out for everybody here.We have a really good support system,” said Marianne Mullally, Coordinator of the Frontier Services Andamooka Community Support Service, which provides in-home personal care, transport, home-delivered meals and other support to elderly residents and also younger people with a disability.

Altogether, the service supports 75 people in Andamooka and Roxby Downs. The majority are elderly clients while services are also provided to their carers who need respite from time to time. Eight staff members are backed up by a team of 22 dedicated volunteers.

“We rely very much on our volunteers,” said Ms Mullally. “For some, it is a way of giving back to the community that’s given to them. One volunteer in his 80s delivers meals once a week.To our delight, in the last three months the volunteer list has been extended with four new volunteers.”

Meanwhile, the Frontier Services Community Health Service has two Remote Area Nurses who provide professional healthcare to residents in the community. They are also the first port of call for emergency medical support, provide counselling and if necessary, direct clients where to go if they need further help.

“We see people for coughs, colds, viruses, dressings, follow up care for surgery, bites, breaks and we do call outs for motor vehicle and other accidents. It can be absolutely anything!” said Vicky Finzel, one of Andamooka’s two nurses.

The two services work together to ensure there is a strong network of support for Andamooka’s ageing population. Many elderly residents have lived in Andamooka for 60 years or more. For them being able to stay in Andamooka, close to friends and family, is very important.

“We liaise constantly with the Community Support Service. They will tell us if a particular client didn’t appear too well. Then we will give that person a ring and organise to do a home visit,” Ms Finzel said.

This practice of keeping an eye on the wellbeing of others extends wider into the community.

“If someone from the CWA or the Post Office is worried about someone, they will let us know. We’ll drop around and have a chat.”

Ms Finzel said the two services did whatever they could to enable elderly residents to continue living at home.

She was first on the scene recently when a 96-year-old widower fell and fractured his femur. After surviving surgery, he was determined to return to his own home.

“Rehabilitation aids have been placed in his home to make it possible. We will continue to check in on him to make sure he is doing OK,” Ms Finzel said.

Every Thursday, the Community Support Service drives a bus into Roxby Downs to allow some of the elderly clients to visit the doctor, go to the pharmacy or do their shopping.

Roxby Downs resident David Beenham, 74, is one of the volunteers who drives the bus each week.

“I just like doing it,” Mr Beenham said. “We all have a bit of fun.”

He also assists with driving clients to specialist medical appointments in places like Port Augusta, Whyalla and Port Pirie.

“These services are a God-send in Andamooka,” Mr Beenham said.

The Community Support Service advocates for its clients. Ms Mullally recently assisted a client to reschedule an eye laser treatment with an ophthalmologist in Port Pirie after his first appointment was cancelled due to faulty equipment.

“He was so happy he came up and put a big kiss on my cheek and cried. How can you not be touched when someone does that? Those moments are really really special.”

The wider community is extremely supportive of the work Frontier Services does in Andamooka.

The Andamooka Progress and Opal Miners Association recently raised more than $1000 towards the purchase of two swivel transfer benches that make it easier for elderly people to have a shower. The Andamooka Hospital Auxillary made up the remaining dollars needed. The benches were donated to the Community Support Service who provided one to a client and the other is on standby.

The Andamooka CWA has also donated items to assist elderly clients. If a client needs something, they will try and find it.

Ms Mullally said the support and appreciation from the community made her job worthwhile.

“When I see the look on a client’s face when something goes right, when they say thank you and the joy on their faces when they’re all together on the bus on a Thursday morning, it just gives you a warm feeling.”

“Andamooka is out of the way. When you first see it, you think you’re on the moon. But it’s a special place. I just love the people and I love the clients. They’re very special.”

Ms Finzel agrees. “It is extremely rewarding. People are just so thankful and extremely supportive of the clinic and nurses. You just feel so valued.”

Frontier Services plans to stay in Andamooka for a long time yet, doing what it can to preserve its hidden treasures.