GREY nomads are presenting planners with a dilemma. Where to best locate health care services in Australia's desert regions?
Reg and I have traveled way off the beaten track into desert areas but never on our own, always with radio contact, a powerful truck engine in a four-wheel drive vehicle and companions. In a 16 day, outback desert adventure with thirty-two fit people starting out, the flying doctor had to be called to aid three members of our party and fly them out, three times.
All travellers, most of all the gray-nomad need to think carefully about the resources that need to be brought out to aid them should they get into trouble, off the beaten track.
No way would Reg and I travel into desert country alone at any age, we are on the road to enjoy and extend our life, not to become a burden to others.
I am personally in favour of an outback tax being charged to travelers who venture off a highway, this fee going to the 'Flying Doctor Service' who do an incredible job-saving lives. I had never needed to use them though I came close when I was diagnosed with appendicitis in Cloncurry Qld. Being sure that wasn't the case, I signed myself out of the Cloncurry Hospital, We drove to Alice Springs for a second opinion, and I did not have appendicitis, I had something else. I saved myself an unnecessary operation and the flying doctor service being called out, but it also highlighted the difficulty of getting diagnosis and treatment in outback areas. I currently have had treatment for a simple condition, on hold for three months, because it could only be treated easily outside of a main city.
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Researchers say the increasing number of aging desert travelers poses considerable headaches for governments and service providers, whose services are often based on delivery in cities where resources, skills, and clients are closely concentrated.
The problem was made worse because they needed more health care than other age groups.
The Desert Knowledge CRC research is being undertaken by Professor Bernard Guerin, of the University of South Australia, and Dr Pauline Guerin, of Flinders University.
"In recent times mobility has been augmented by the widespread use of 4WDs and SUVs," they said.
"The rise of the gray-nomad, in particular, has confronted planners with thorny questions about where best to locate health care services in desert regions."
The researchers believe technology is coming to the rescue, with new ways to deliver services no matter where travelers were. These included telemedicine, video conferencing, online education and training, and online technical advice.
They said Desert Knowledge CRC was also trialing the iOutback™ electronic bulletin board for online information to gray nomads and others moving around deserts.
"For these educational and health online services to be effective in desert Australia. However, there will need to be the dramatic improvement in the coverage and quality of broadband and mobile telephony services," Prof. Guerin said.
"One hopes that the federal government's $43 billion National Broadband Network proposal will pay close attention to the needs of desert Australians as well as those in the cities ... not fall into the same trap of developing services suited only to an urban setting."
For more information, go to www.desertknowledgecrc.com.au
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