City Kid in a Country Town

Knee high black boots. Flat ones this time. You gotta be practical sometimes. Silk dress. Long sleeve, to keep sway the flies. Stockings, to keep off the bugs. Ray bans, to protect the eyes from bright sunshine. Searching wildly for 3G reception. Finding it. Internet! Now I can use Google maps to get me around.

Admittedly, there were only a few streets I needed to navigate and I had been given very clear instructions on how to get where I was going. I've just been in so many situations where 'clear directions' have not amounted to clear travel.  Getting lost would be just a little bit embarrassing.

You take the girl out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the girl. For me, it's more like you can take the girl out of New York but you can't take the New York out of the girl. Arrival in Orange was met with a combined feeling of quaint and cute - rolling green hills covered with happy-looking sheep (not that I'd know what a sad sheep looked like), beautiful old buildings. A sense that you were in a place you could call home, even though many of us had never seen Orange before. Someone behind me asked if there were buses and taxis in Orange. The idea of them not existing hadn't even crossed my mind...the little voice in my head said "of course there will be!' but I was suddenly doubting my confidence. Then I thought, anywhere that has 3G reception would have adequate services. Yes, I thought, there will be buses here. Rumor has it that there are multiple services to get one around but realistically, most places you could walk or cycle, or hitch a ride with someone you know. We weren't likely to be stranded.

I was feeling a little out of place until we hit the hospital. Strange how I feel at home in hospitals, regardless of where or when. Hospital was comforting in Ghana and equally so in Orange. A brand new Base Hospital with fantastic facilities, great simulators and wonderful staff to keep the whole region healthy. It was then, surrounded by heart monitors, oxygen supply, computers and antiseptic hand wash, that I felt like I could live in Orange. That this could work for me. Have hospital, will travel.

If you can take the girl out of the city but not the city out of the girl, you can take the medical student out of hospital but you can't take the hospital out of the medical student. We were all so eager to look around, to see a place that could be our new home in 2013 or 2014. Even if we were in appropriately dressed.

Visiting the Royal Flying Doctors Service, Dubbo, we were overwhelmed by the health challenges facing our fellow Australians. In the city, a wait for an ambulance might be 10 or 15 minutes, you should be at hospital within an hour. On a farm, it might be an hour before the plane leaves base to get to you. Your agony may continue for hours. The thoughts I had been having about "if I lived here, how hard would it be to visit my parents or travel abroad?" suddenly paled in significance to the difficulties facing those in remote areas. And it reminded me why I want to go rural.

In the city, health care is much easier. Visit a GP, find someone who bulk bills, get the services you need and you'll be fine. In the country, many towns have GPs with closed books, which means you can't get a doctor when you move in. The hospital can be a several-hour drive, if you could drive at all. Even then, you may not have all of the services you need. Increasingly, maternity wards are being closed down because it is so hard to hold obstetricians in these areas. Primary care physicians are moving away from rural areas in droves. It is so hard for rural areas to entice doctors and nurses and other health care personel. The problems facing these communities are almost entirely hidden from those of us in the city. It's hidden from Csnnerra. And the problems seem to be swept under the carpet.

In the next few weeks, I'll have the opportunity to put my name down for a rural placement of 6-12 months. And I'm putting my name in the hat. It's time I had a tree change.


Cate said…
The country is awesome and so different. Moving from sydney to central QLD opens your eyes to community and yes the importance of health when a doctor visits once a month and the closest hospital is 100km away and then you may have to travel a further 200km because they dont have the services. But rural life is so rewarding!

stace xx
Brooke Sachs said…
Hi Stace! Thank you for your comment :) I'm glad to hear that you find rural life so rewarding, despite the barriers to healthcare. This is so encouraging.

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