Dr Katie, medical locum, GP for the Royal Flying Doctors (RFDS)
Broken Hill 2021
Katie shares her recent experience with the Mollymook Ocean swimmers: “For the past two years I have travelled to Broken Hill to do a short medical locum as a GP for the Royal Flying Doctors (RFDS). I love remote locations and find the landscape inspiring and transformative. The red dirt, the big skies and the people who live in places like the outback make becoming a FIFO doctor exciting.
Broken Hill is a heritage listed city built on the back of BHP mining (Broken Hill Propriety Company who mine for lead, zinc and silver). In contrast to the mining history there is also a thriving art community and there are now more art galleries than pubs in Broken Hill! As an RFDS doctor I also get to meet the families living and working on the agricultural stations – from graziers to shearers to governesses to roo shooters. Apart from medicine, I have a lot of learning opportunities including learning about crutching and flystrike, goat farming, emu breeding and how to cook for 30 shearers (including breakfast, lunch, dinner and 2 x smokos a day). This diverse community includes descendants from the Afghan camel herders in the 1800s (some of whom run the fantastic Afghan Bakery named Sufi), there is a strong LGBQTI community which celebrate at Broken Hill’s equivalent of Sydney’s Mardi Gras- the annual “Broken Heel festival” and there is a thriving indigenous community and trips to the many national parks and art galleries are the best place to learn and reflect on our ancient culture.
As a GP I am not flying across the outback doing emergency retrievals. Instead I travel to small communities and run GP clinics providing primary health care to communities. The RFDS Broken Hill Base covers a large geographical area including western NSW, eastern South Australia and southern Queensland. One day a week I do telemedicine where I speak with people on stations and help them manage their physical or mental health. I may recommend they use one of the medications supplied by the RFDS in a metal medicine chest with a padlock. It contains everything from morphine to antibiotics and antivirals to anaphylactics and more. In this job I need to check the area code and time zone before dialling. Broken Hill is on South Australian (SA) time and shares the SA area code so calls to other states and towns require a change of area code and factoring in varying time zones.
So what have the highlights been this year? A trip to Mungo National Park with Helen’s daughter Emma who joined us for a few nights. Mungo was amazing and well worth the trip. We camped in the desert, saw the “Walls of China” at sunset and spent time chasing after kangaroos. There have been many excellent pub meals and tastings of Broken Hill’s famous and unique delicacy – cheeseslaw. Think of coleslaw but replace the cabbage with grated cheese and this community thinks it is the perfect accompaniment to any meal. It is tasty on a toasted chicken sandwich. For women of the RFDS there is also Thursday “beer and schnitty” night at the pub. We eat chicken schnitzel, have drinks and discuss all things Broken Hill.
We have had a great time here and intend to come again next yea”r!