My Life as a Travel Agent

Categories Medical

travel agent

Do you know any logisticians who want a job? Sometimes I wonder if being a logistics expert would be more helpful than being a doctor in East Arnhem. This week I have been spending most of my time directing traffic, or at least pointing vaguely in a direction and hoping that the drivers will understand.

I spent a long time with a pregnant lady near term explaining why she needed to travel to Darwin. When she very reasonably refused to go by herself, I spent an equally long time trying to arrange for her relative to get there with her. I tried everything for her – hitch hiking with CareFlight, a chartered plane, driving to Gove at short notice. I had to admit defeat as the weekend made it too hard to arrange. The woman graciously travelled alone.

The next day, a young unwell girl was transferred to hospital from one of the homelands that I visit regularly. She arrived at the hospital with her aunt and was admitted, then promptly disappeared for the night. I heard on the grapevine where she ended up, and the next morning it took a few phone calls to find out which house she was in, make a case for her to go back to the hospital, and organise a taxi to take her there.

Today, I saw a boy in a remote homeland who I was worried about. Was it appendicitis? My gut instinct said yes. He looked miserable – hot, tachycardic, dry, uncomfortable. I wanted him in hospital soon and planned a plane to pick him up before we left. His mother was not so sure. “He’s scared of flying,” she said. I pointed out that she would be with him on the plane and he really needed to go. “I’m scared of flying too. Can we go tomorrow in the bush taxi?” I rang back to the office for ideas, and was told a bush taxi had left another homeland and was headed our way, should be there any minute. I looked out the window. There was the bush taxi, about to leave! I waved furiously from outside the clinic, and received a lethargic wave in reply without noticeable deviation of the vehicle’s course. I jogged over, trying not to look too conspicuous running in the relaxed homeland atmosphere. Someone yelled “Wuy, doctor – you looking for someone?” I caught the taxi, and the boy and his mum squeezed into the last seat in the back.

Plane at Gan Gan
Plane at Gan Gan

They left with nothing, so I dropped in later to Emergency with a few bags of clothes sent from home. The boy looked a million dollars…. probably not appendicitis.

I’m not very good at being a travel agent. The logistics of getting around up here are such a challenge. It would be hard for a Yolngu person living in the homelands to negotiate this maze of trips, planes, cars, appointments and deadlines just to receive good healthcare.

Andy is a GP obstetrician living in remote Northern Territory, Australia. He is totally outnumbered by girls in his family - one wife, 3 daughters, 2 chooks.

4 thoughts on “My Life as a Travel Agent

  1. Good story, and just like Wadeye as well. Where did you get the Travel Agent picture? That’s great. Is that the ear mob waiting for the plane? They seem not to travel light!

  2. Maybe we could come and join you – sort out logistics and obstetrics in one fell swoop? 🙂 Enjoying reading your updates again! Say hello to your girls from us.

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