Graphic: Gregory QCWA raise funds for the RFDS (Queensland Section)
Everyone in the small northwest Queensland region around Gregory has a story about the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). It’s their general practitioner, their emergency response and their mental health support. So, when it was determined that the organisation needed an upgraded clinic, the local women stepped in to help.
The Gregory branch of the Queensland Country Women’s Association (QCWA) not only raised more than $50,000 to create a fit-for-purpose medical clinic — with separate consulting rooms for a doctor, a nurse and a psychologist — but now organises a roster to clean it. And together with local Merv Bird the CWA also ferries the medicos around town each time they come and sources materials when needed.
The RFDS doctors and nurses say that they couldn’t deliver the healthcare they do without the support of these plucky local women.
Gregory QCWA President Tess Arnold, who with her husband, David, manages a cattle station and raised five children in the Gulf Country, says her family has received life-saving assistance time and time again from the RFDS.
“There is no one who would be in a remote location like this for any length of time and raise families without the support of the Royal Flying Doctor Service — you just couldn’t do it,” she says.
In 2003 Tess and David’s second daughter, Jessica, was bitten by a King Brown snake, one of Australia’s most venomous species.
“That was quite a horrific night,” she says. “It was raining a lot and it’s all black-soil floodplains. They couldn’t land the plane. They called every five minutes throughout the night — eventually it was every 15 minutes, then every half an hour until morning, and we got her through it.”
Four years later, their same daughter, Jessica, was hit by a gate in the stockyard and trampled, leaving her unconscious. Forty minutes later, the RFDS had flown from Mount Isa and they were there.
“You can’t get that sort of service in the city,” Tess says.
Fiona Liddle, Nurse Manager Aeromedical and Primary Health Care with the Mount Isa Base RFDS, is grateful for the women’s support in setting up the new clinic, and even more grateful that they have made a commitment to maintain it.
Their hard work means that, when her RFDS team flies into Gregory every second Wednesday, the clinic space is clean, the air-conditioning is on, everything is set up and ready to go. And that means that they can offer better care to more patients.
“Everyone knows how important the clinic is to the community,” Tess adds finally.
“We are very lucky.”
Written by Rosanne Barrett, and photographed by Nina Firth, this article was first published in The Australian Women’s Weekly.