Living with pain in rural communities
dubbo takes action to speak up about access to services
We city folk with chronic pain problems find that we do not have a great selection of options to help and support us in our quest for a better life in spite of our health issues.What we do have is a choice of GP’s within reasonable distance of where we live, access to means of transport to get to a hospital or clinic (often with difficulty, but still possible), a selection of adjunct health services (physiotherapists, counsellors, radiography centres etc.). We probably have a community health centre available that could provide education and information to us regarding our condition and maybe even gentle exercise or relaxation groups we could participate in.
Not so for our country cousins. In talking to rural folk via telephone through our help line, it became apparent to me that chronic pain in regional areas is pretty barren of helpful resources. I have been known to suggest approaching the person who straps for the local footy team as a person who could possibly help out someone with pain in a country town. Often there is only one overworked GP and if there happens to be a clash of personal style with this Doctor there is no other avenue for medical help. Some towns or rural outposts do not even have the benefit of a resident GP. As for access to pain clinics and many other medical specialists, this means a painful, exhausting trip for a day in a vehicle that plays havoc with painful joints or an injured back. There is an overnight stay somewhere before the return journey - all expensive and possibly unaffordable moneywise and time wise. Rural folk sure have the short end of the stick!
With this in mind I was pleased to accept an invitation to conduct a forum for those with chronic pain problems in Dubbo last November. The local RSL very kindly made facilities available for us to hold this meeting, and very successful it was, especially as many folk spent the morning cleaning up the town from the recent floods! The people were asked what they thought was needed in the area that could help them manage their pain more effectively and allow them and their families to have a better quality of life. They felt so isolated, not just geographically but also personally and were glad to make connections with other folk facing similar problems. Many thought they were alone in their experience and found it helpful and supporting to share.
A wonderful woman, Annette Asimus, a person who lives with rheumatoid arthritis, agreed to become the group’s spokesperson and contact. Annette has been the town’s unofficial pain counsellor from behind the counter at Brennan’s Mitre 10, dispensing kind, supportive words along with the change for many years. She was a gem waiting for us to discover her. Annette may be contacted on 02 68841064 in Dubbo.At further forums, it was decided that we should gather community support for a visiting pain specialist to come to Dubbo on a regular schedule. With that in mind, a petition has been organised and is waiting to be signed at various locations around the town. If you could help spread the word or sign the petition for more facilities for pain management in regional areas, please contact Annette.
If you would like to join our campaign for more pain management facilities in regional centres, or have an idea for other community outreach, please contact the office and let us know.
Margaret Knight – volunteer, chronic pain survivor, expert patient.