Graphic: Volunteer Lesley in front of Clinic
While the Flying Doctor is perhaps best known for its emergency retrievals, it is also driven by meeting the primary health needs of people in rural and remote NSW.
Doctors, nurses and pilots are critical in providing these services but there is another role that is just as integral.
All over our network, volunteer clinic coordinators prepare venues, promote clinic dates within their communities and book patients. This unheralded role is critical to us being able to delivery GP visits, dental health and even vaccination clinics.
Without these tireless workers, the clinics wouldn’t function anywhere near as well as they do.
Lesley Baker is the clinic coordinator at Grawin, a small mining community 60 kilometres south-west of Lightning Ridge in the NSW north-west.
Lesley played a part in getting the clinic established, lobbying the Flying Doctor to show there was a need for access to a GP Clinic, dental and mental health services.
“RFDSSE board member Joan Treweeke and CEO Greg Sam came up to Grawin and I showed them around the fields and told them what was what,” Lesley said. “Greg could see there was a need for services out this way.”
Lesley was already the secretary of the Glengarry Grawin Sheepyard Miners Association when the Flying Doctor began to establish clinics. She said taking on the publicity and bookings for the clinic was a natural step.
“It’s just a bit of extra work to put notices out when the clinics are happening and make the appointments for the people to see the doctor. It’s the same with the dental service and the Covid clinics. They’re important for Grawin to have,” Lesley said.
Rather than a town, Grawin is a collection of small opal mines and the actual population of the area is largely unknown. However, the area, which has become a popular tourist destination, has three hotels, a convenience store and its own golf course.
Lesley, a long-time resident, said there were more people in the area than you might expect.
“We’ve had people turning up for Covid vaccination clinics that I have never seen before in my life, and I’ve lived here for 40 years. There’s around 2,000 residential claims where people have a camp or a house but not everyone is here all the time,” she said.
“It’s hard to sum up Grawin other than to say there is nowhere else quite like it.”