The latest edition of Frontier News, our quarterly magazine, is out this week. In the magazine we share how Frontier Services continues to be there for people in remote Australia.
Below is an edited version of the first story in the magazine which tells the story of how our remote areas nurses in Andamooka make a difference, not only by providing round-the-clock medical care, but by simply being there for people in the small ways that really matter.
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“It’s not just the medical care they offer – although that in itself has saved the life of one of my family members. It’s the fact that they also go above and beyond the call of duty in all the little things that really matter – like sitting with the family of a bereaved person or offering to listen when you need it most. They’re just always there.”
Anne Budau, resident of Andamooka.
In remote and rural Australia, provision of care for the aged, Indigenous and people with disabilities falls mostly to the not-for-profit sector. Sixty-seven per cent of residential aged care facilities in very remote areas are operated by not-for-profits, many of them part of the Frontier Services stable. It’s an approach very much in keeping with Frontier Services’ philosophy of going ‘beyond the furthest fences’, providing care in places easily overlooked. So what’s it like to ‘be there’ for the long haul? What does it take to ‘be there’ in the desert or to constantly be on hand for people in medical emergencies? Cath Taylor recently caught up with the people who’ve been there and done that…
Being there beyond the call of duty: Di Bilka and Vicki Finzel – Andamooka.
People in Andamooka are eager to talk about the medical skills of the staff at the Andamooka clinic, I discover. From cut fingers to epileptic fits and kidney failure, they tell me the staff are on hand to diagnose and provide care, 24 hours a day.
“We know we can rely on their advice and their care,” says Karen Taubers, a local of Andamooka for 25 years. “For anything really major we can transfer to Roxby. But knowing that the girls can be there within five minutes just gives you such peace of mind.”
An opal mining town in South Australia, Andamooka is dusty, quirky and remote. Roxby Downs, a 20 minute drive away, has a fully equipped hospital but the residents of Andamooka rely on their clinic and the knowledge that their nursing staff are equipped to handle just about any medical emergency that might come their way.
Medical care is one thing. But scratch just below the surface and I’m told that Di Bilka and Vicki Finzel are providing so much more than diagnosis and dressings.
“They’re just absolutely beautiful people,” says Karen Gow, who has lived in the town for 14 years. “They nursed me here in my home when my kidneys went down and also looked after me when I lost my partner. I couldn’t have got by without them. They’ve looked after my dogs for me when I’ve been away. They’re here to talk to when I need them. They’re real jewels of the outback.”
Ann Budau agrees. “They’re not just there for medical problems, that’s the funny thing,” she says. “I’ve never known them to complain when they’ve been called out for medical emergencies, had their meals disturbed or been asked to make house calls at odd hours. I’m from England and here in this town all by myself. When I’ve been struggling with things and needed to go and have a chat or a cup of tea, they’ve been available for that too. They go far beyond the call of duty.”
Di Bilka was recently acknowledged with a Long Service Award in honour of her 30 years of service with Frontier Services in Andamooka. Like all Frontier Services staff, she doesn’t regard what she does as anything out of the ordinary.
“It’s really not that difficult, I just enjoy it,” she says. “We live in a great community and I love what I do. It’s true that we’ve done a few unexpected things over the years – the nearest vet used to be 300km away so in the past we’ve even patched up animals in the clinic! And at times we’ve been called upon to take care of things that aren’t anything to do with nursing – simply because we seem to have a certain standing in the community. But that’s what happens in small communities. You get caught up in everything.”
“Being there” in remote and rural Australia isn’t just about providing a service, it seems. It’s about providing a service in the places where no one else is willing to go – places where heat and dust and distance are barriers. It’s about providing a service faithfully over many years, with the personal touch that reassures people that they’re loved. And it’s about providing a service after hours, with an open heart and wide arms. That’s what being there is all about – the spirit of Frontier Services.
Written by Cath Taylor