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Two different stories

28 January 2021

Dr Jared Watts, MBBS(Hons) MPHTM MIPH MRMed MMA FRANZCOG

‘Ding, ding’… I glance over at my mobile phone; it has just alerted me that a message has arrived. It is a photo of an ultrasound image that makes me smile. While I have seen many ultrasounds before, this one is a bit special as it is of my ‘nephew to be’. My sister has just had her anatomy scan and has sent me a photo of the bub’s face. I know that while she also lives in a country town, she will have just popped 5 minutes down the road to get her scan. Her obstetrician is also just another 5 minutes in the other direction from her home.
 
After a few seconds I turn back to the patient in front of me. She is also 20 weeks pregnant and just had her anatomy scan. We are however in Kununurra and I know that she will travel for four days just to see me and return home. Living in the desert on the border of the Northern Territory and Western Australia, she has taken an 8 -10-hour car ride to the remote airstrip, and then has taken two light aircraft flights just to get to town. She will then need to stay for two nights before the next flight home, followed by that long car trip again. ‘You must be exhausted,’ I comment to her,
 
‘It’s okay,’ she states, ‘at least it is still the dry season and the roads are not flooded yet!’

I know what she means, the trip is going to become much longer soon with the rains coming. I also know that she has 3 other children at home in her community and this will be a complicated pregnancy with diabetes. She will be torn between coming to town to care for her pregnancy and making sure her children at home as cared for and safe. It will be hard and challenging, and she is just one of many women that live in remote areas that face these challenges every day in accessing health care.
 
It is a challenge for our health service here in the Kimberley also, that tries to provide health care for 35 000 people across 500 000 sq km, with 6 hospitals and over 50 nursing posts. We are excited however as we have technological advances that allow us to provide some services remotely and we have more health workers who are keen to make a real difference and head bush to care for these amazing women!
 
For Aboriginal health, support people are important. Often Aboriginal women put their children and family’s wellbeing far ahead of their own, so they won’t leave communities if there is any risk of their children not being cared for. 

Often women are too scared to come into town to have appointments without support. Often it can be the stress of travelling on planes or to cities for the first time. Services such as Aboriginal ‘meet and greet’ as well as allowing aunties or other relatives to come have made a big difference.

The other thing I feel that will make a big difference is anything that can be taken into communities, such as testing equipment, ultrasounds, offering on the spot cervical screening and colonoscopy in remote communities, without women having to leave for bigger towns. 

“RANZCOG is committed to ensuring that women living and working in rural and remote Australia, like their counterparts in metropolitan centres, receive high quality obstetric and gynaecological healthcare throughout any pregnancy and their lives,” RANZCOG President Dr Vijay Roach.





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