Medical aid in the Outback

By: David Cook, Photography by: David Cook

Outback medical clinics are sorely lacking. Perhaps it’s time we did it ourselves.

Medical aid in the Outback
Give me a box of Bandaids and a packet of aspirin and I can deal with 90% of the medical problems that confront me while I’m trying to take in a bit of leisure activity in the bush

This month I’ve been pondering health. Not that there has been any illness in my family. My genetic line is strong and so am I. I may be entering the prime of my middle age years but that does not mean that I’m not enjoying robust good health.

If you are, like me, enjoying a ruddy-cheeked vigour, then you will not have had many dealings with the health system in this nation. And, in that, you have been fortunate. Like myself, the doctors and health professionals give more of themselves than there is, at times, to give, but it’s the system that lets them, and us, down. Go to the outback and how many hospitals do you see? How many CT scanners, how many ambulances or tongue depressors? How many stethoscope swinging, white-coated boffins are there with red dust on their shoes? There’s not even a good faith healer in sight.

That’s the great problem. The outback is starved of those who can steer us back to our natural vitality should the worst happen, and of the sort of creative ingenuity that we, as campers, have a right to expect.

Some might argue we should all be familiar with first aid. But does that assist us in dealing with complaints such as dropsy, ague, apoplexy, erysipelas or the softening of the brain? No, not at all. And that’s why we need properly trained professionals who are familiar with the above conditions, and the many others that can afflict us at the drop of a hat, to guide us securely and gently to safety.

Come up against an outbreak of scurvy or scrivener’s palsy in the camp and you’re up that well-known creek without so much as a short oar to propel a barbed wire canoe. Even a postgraduate degree from St John isn’t going to get you over that sort of hurdle. Whether this government likes it or not, the outback needs more doctors.

Forget all this nonsense about co-payments and Medicare, about nurse-to-bed ratios and anaesthetist’s trips to European ski fields, the real core of this whole medical discussion revolves around our access to real time, know-it-all experience when we are crook while camping.

Give me a box of Bandaids and a packet of aspirin and I can deal with 90% of the medical problems that confront me while I’m trying to take in a bit of leisure activity in the bush. It’s that other 10%, the obtuse afflictions, ranging from varicose veins to delirium tremens (strangely, I’ve come across this one on several camping trips, but we’ll leave that for another column) that I, as an (admittedly, above) average camper, want help with.

If Tony Abbott and his financial henchmen want to start mucking about with the medical system then let them go, but just make sure they leave the outback campers’ clinics on the agenda. Flying doctors are all very well, but I want to be able to drop in for a face-to-face chat about that bothersome rash or the eldest child’s drooling. No doctor is going to fly his Fokker Friendship into a bush airstrip to help me resolve these important issues. They’ll want to turn up with all their showy shiny stuff, like scalpels, drips, tourniquets, ECG devices and all that other fancy-pants stuff.

Face it, if I wanted something to kick start my heart I’d go to my trusty AGM battery and grab a shot of 12V invigorator. As any good camper will know, this is the best option as the solar panel can replace the used watts.


They made a TV show about bush mechanics who could do all manner of clever things with the least tools, like revive an engine that had no pistons left by cutting off a bunch of round wooden branch bits and attaching them to the con rods, or making a new diff centre out of a camp oven lid, or fixing a GPS using bits out of an electric shaver. That’s the sort of intuitive, off-the-top-of-the-head genius material we need more of in the bush, especially, as I’ve been saying, when it comes to personal health.

Once again I condemn this government for its failure to fund the sort of research that we need. Yeah, let them sell off the cochlear implant idea, and our dairy industry and all of our other natural resources at give-away prices. That I can tolerate, but let’s at least keep a firm grip on the one area where we have a lead on the rest of the world.

I say, let’s get bush medicine back on its feet, and let’s use camping and camper trailers as the first stepping stones in the long road back.

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Check out the full feature in issue #87 April 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.