Increase healthcare access by making it mobile

  • Photo of Bowen Hospital, Queensland.
    Outreach clinics are run at Bowen Hospital, Queensland.
  • Local Blackall welcome to Blackall illustrated cartoon sign - where any further inland is beyond the black stump
    Outreach clinics are run in Blackall, Queensland.
Sharon Stokell
By
True Relationships & Reproductive Health
Sharon Stokell,
General Manager, Operations
Issue
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Rising practice costs, fewer bulk-billing clinics and a decline in medical students choosing general practice means that more Australians are having a difficult time accessing health care than ever before. And this doesn’t consider regional and remote areas, where healthcare services are already scarce.

In order to continue providing critical healthcare services, including reproductive and sexual health services, we must get creative and make these services mobile.

At True Relationships & Reproductive Health, we’ve had great success with our outreach clinics. Each year, in partnership with the Australian Government and CheckUP, we visit more than 17 towns throughout regional, rural and remote Queensland – towns like Blackall, Mitchell and Thargomindah.

Our clinicians fly and drive into these places, set up in existing medical facilities and, over several days, are able to see clients from the town and nearby areas. We offer services like contraception advice, cervical screenings, breast examinations and more.

We’ve been operating outreach clinics since October 2016. For community residents, outreach increases access to reproductive and sexual health services and provides them with choice in areas where options are limited.

In fact, all our growth has been organic, after people heard about outreach in other places and wanted us in their backyards as well. These clinics also offer opportunities for our clinicians to embed themselves in smaller communities and out of their comfort zone, doing what they love best and helping to bridge the divide between cities and our more remote areas.

These rural and remote clinics have been very successful, but still come with their own challenges. One solution we’re advocating for – along with other healthcare providers looking to make an impact in our more far-flung regions – is turning our outreach location visits into mobile clinics. It’s a model that can scale rapidly and offer long-lasting benefits to oft-ignored areas of Australia. 

Currently, our clinicians are only able to operate in existing facilities, like hospitals. Having a clinic on wheels means health professionals could set up shop nearly anywhere, allowing us to head into areas where resources are scarce and accessible health care is sorely needed, without having to rely on existing infrastructure.

Mobile health care would allow us to reach more places, more frequently and with greater cost efficiency than flying in and out of regions. This would allow for continuity of care while expanding where we can go, without relying on airport access as a deciding factor in whether or not we can service a community.

The TrueMobile, as we affectionately have named it, would allow our clinicians to build deeper bonds with the communities they operate in. We also see great potential in mobile care facilitating training for existing healthcare providers in an area, allowing them to increase their skill set so they’re able to offer more services once we’ve rolled out of town.

Finally, we can’t underestimate the impact of having more clinicians in these areas. The more access and choice that we can provide in rural and remote Queensland shows healthcare options available to the public, in addition to reminding clinicians that the growth of services within the vast majority of this state – and throughout Australia – are paramount to an equitable health landscape.

For now, the TrueMobile is still a dream that we’re working towards. But as the crisis in providing services to rural, regional and remote communities reaches a tipping point, it’s a tangible solution that can change lives.  

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