SOS Health Volunteer Danielle Vaughn, an OT, spent a week with our partner organisation Laynhapuy Health serving the people of remote Homeland Communities in North East Arnhem Land. She outlines here some of her experiences and observations:
The clients I saw had similar medical conditions to those clients that I see in an urban area, but their living conditions are different due to their culture and remote dwellings. The access to some basic amenities is more limited due to distance to shops and cost of supply and delivery. I had to be flexible and recommended pieces of equipment that are off the shelf items (not custom) as these could then be purchased by Laynha. In an urban practice you have more access to equipment to trial and to get suppliers in to be able to provide customised equipment. I also made recommendations that enabled family or Layhna staff be able to follow up rather than being reliant on other external providers (which I would be more inclined to do in an urban environment).
Access to medical assistance and preventative health is more limited due to distance and time to travel, and the cost of travel is very high. The budget of existing health services does not cover the enough of the costs to provide sufficient services, especially when the priority for people is to remain living in their homeland community. This means people put up with pain and difficulty because of the limited services.
The people I met were receptive to me coming into their homes and having discussions about their care needs and their wishes. I feel most of my recommendations will be adhered while some may not. Ongoing discussions and interactions will help to develop relationships, rapport building and compliance, and this is one of the limitations of a short-term volunteer model, not having the same allied health people treating the same patient regularly. But in the absence of a permanent regular OT or physio or podiatry service, what SOS Health provides at least means people are getting some of the treatment they so desperately need.