Graphic: RFDS team at Nockatunga Station
When droughts, floods and economic downturn hits, one of the first things to descend the priority list is personal health and wellbeing.
Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS) Nurse Manager Jo Mahony has spent the past 18 years caring for the most remote parts of Western Queensland and supporting rural communities through their highs and lows.
“When people out on the properties are doing it tough, everyone is impacted,” Jo said.
Natural disasters are all too common in Australia and when farmers are impacted, rural towns are often the first to suffer.
“Something I see as very important is changing people’s focus around their health. It is vital to engage people early so they are not just coming in when they become unwell."
Jo recounts moments when patients have been emergency airlifted out of their properties for entirely treatable and preventable conditions.
RFDS Mental Health team have been working hard to remove the stigma around seeking medical advice in rural areas and programs have been set up to spark conversation and encourage action.
Last year, RFDS received funding to hold an exercise program for Indigenous people over 55 years of age and non-indigenous people over 65 years.
It is these kinds of preventative programs which provide communities with the tools to take care of their own health and potentially avoid more serious issues in the future.
“It’s about changing the mindset of people around their health needs,” Jo said.
Many RFDS employees live close to the communities they engage with and understand the struggles, uncertainty and stress that come with working in some of Queensland’s most remote locations.
“We work with the communities to provide holistic care. We take in the context of their life, not just what is happening in the moment.”
“When people are in those vulnerable situations, they know who we are, they know it is a safe service and they know we have their best interest at heart.”
Jo has always recognised the vital service RFDS provides, but it was only when her own daughter needed to be flown out for a severe arm break that she realised the true impact RFDS has on the communities it serves.
“I knew I was doing an important job, but I never knew how much until I was on the other side.”
“I don’t think your postcode should ever dictate your health outcomes.”