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.
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.