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Local GP Clinic Steps Up to Help Isolated Indigenous Community

Self-isolation has played a critical role in keeping Indigenous elders and remote communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But self-isolation has flow-on consequences - how to ensure people continue to have access to essential supplies and food?

This was the challenge confronting the small Indigenous community of Goodooga locates around 20km from the Queensland border in outback NSW.

A beautiful little town, three-quarters of the residents are Indigenous.

If COVID-19 spread into this community it would have a serious impact on a town that a very high rate of chronic disease.

Reducing unnecessary travel to larger centres was a key strategy to minimise the risk of transmitting the infection into the community.

But this meant reducing travel to the nearest large centre of Lightning Ridge for shopping, the home of the Black Opal and major destination for overseas visitors to the outback.

RARMS runs the local GP practice in Lightning Ridge, and it’s GPs provide emergency department services at the local hospital. For residents with chronic diseases, eating well is critical to long term health outcomes.

While organising shopping is not a typical role for a local GP practice, in this case an apple a day was needed to keep the doctor away.

So RARMS practice manager Helen Evans and the dedicated staff at RARMS Health Lightning Ridge called on the local community for help.

RARMS talked to Khan’s IGA, the local supermarket operator, which agreed to set up a special ordering system for Goodooga residents to shop online.

But not everyone in Goodooga has access to a computer or device to access online ordering, so Roslyn Forrester from the Goodooga Primary School, organised access for locals to put in orders and Khan’s IGA allowed orders to be placed by phone.

Now the only issue was getting the orders to Goodooga, a two hour round trip through some of Australia’s most captivating landscape.

The Lightning Ridge Bowls Club immediately volunteered to drive the shopping to Goodooga, with pick ups organised 15 mins apart to maintain social distancing.

”This is a great example of how local communities pull together in times of difficulty to look after each other“ said Mark Burdack, CEO of RARMS.

”Rural general practice plays such a critical role in the community. Our doctors and staff are members of the local community, and they know that good health care is not just about treating an illness, but working with the community to reduce ill-health.

“I am so proud of the staff of RARMS Health and the work they do every day in the local community“ said Mr Burdack.

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