Graphic: Cooper Basin Clinic

Bourke and Wills territory safe at last

Date published

06 Aug 2021

Where once there was nothing, the RFDS Cooper Basin Clinic now offers locals everything ‘from dental to mental’ health care

The terminal stop of the ill-fated Bourke and Wills expedition, the outback town of Innamincka, SA, is as remote as it gets. Hotel landlady Nichelle Hodgson has seen what can befall modern-day travellers and locals alike.  

“Until the RFDS clinic came,” says Nichelle, “we’ve always been first port of call. We’d have to look after sick and injured people while we waited for the Flying Doctor to arrive, and without a medical background.”  

Since opening in November 2020, the RFDS Cooper Basin Clinic now offers the local community, travellers and nearby Santos oil and gas workers everything ‘from dental to mental’ health services with nurses available 24/7 and a GP clinic every few weeks.  

“The Flying Doctor means everything,” adds Nichelle. “It’s a long way to drive to get to the city for medical services, and having them here now is really welcome to the community. Having the nurses has been a Godsend. It takes the stress off us everyday people.” 

Ali Matthews from the Cooper Creek homestay and her two children are in for check-ups in the fully-equipped dental room. “Before the clinic was here, we waited three to five years between dental appointments,” says Ali. “This is a life-changer for us, that’s for sure.”

Graphic: Dental clinic in Innaminka

Living out here, Ali’s whole family have been flown to safety by the Flying Doctor at some point. “We’re very grateful for the RFDS,” she says. “Without them there’d be lots more unnecessary illness, it’s a lifesaving service. Before the clinic was here, if anything happened to the kids I’d have to drive to Moomba, which is 100 kilometres, with a sick infant in the back.” 

Tegan Hall, head stockwoman at the nearby Innamincka cattle station, could not be more grateful either. With millions of acres to look after, she explains, “a lot of things can go wrong out here. But if someone has a bust up on their horse or their bike we are really close. If people have been hurt we’ve got the nurses here 24/7.” 

With her first baby due this year, having the clinic nearby has made a huge personal difference to Tegan. “For me to just come over and have my blood pressure taken – something as simple as that – it’s a half an hour job. If this clinic wasn’t here I’d be driving five hours.”

“It gives ease of mind,” she continues. “It’s good knowing that you can just come and someone’s going to be here to listen to you, and reassure you that everything going to be all right.” 

Echoing Innamincka Hotel landlady Nichelle, Tegan is enormously thankful: “It’s just a Godsend. When people get out here and experience just how remote we are, they see it’s super important to keep donating.”

Innamincka station farm hand Josiah Bradley and stock manager Tegan Hall speak to Nurse Practitioner Chris Belshaw

Innamincka station farm hand Josiah Bradley and stock manager Tegan Hall speak to Nurse Practitioner Chris Belshaw