Getting ready for the Birdsville Bash and Races

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Birdsville PHC

Health authorities are putting plans in place to keep people safe in the small outback town of Birdsville during the annual influx of thousands of visitors for the Big Red Bash and the iconic races.

Birdsville is normally home to a permanent population of about 110 but plays host to up to 10,000 visitors for the Big Red Bash and more than 6000 for the annual races.

This year’s Big Red Bash will be held from 2-4 July, while the Birdsville Races will be on 6-7 September.

“We always start our planning for these big events early in the year, so we have everything in place when they are held in early July and September,’’ Central West Hospital and Health Service Executive Director of Nursing and Midwifery Services Karlee Quin said.

“Prior to major local events that might affect any health facility, we undertake a risk assessment with our health partners – in particular the Queensland Ambulance Service and Queensland Police Service, as well as the Royal Flying Doctor Service, as well as event organisers – to establish how big a spike in activity might be expected.

“We do the same with every major event in our region, such as the Winton Way out West Festival that was held in April or the Windorah Campdraft Rodeo coming up in August.

“We then work out what additional staff might be required to support out local health centre staff during the period of the event.

“For instance, in Birdsville, our normal permanent staffing at the primary health centre there is two nurses and an administration officer.

“Obviously, for major events like the Bash and the Races, we need to have more staff and resources on hand to manage emergencies and meet the potential health needs of that large an influx of people.

“For Birdsville this year, both major events will see an increase in nursing staff to eight nurses, both for during the event and the days immediately before and after.

“These staff will travel in and out on staggered rosters to ensure increased capacity in alignment with predicted flow of event patrons.

“We will also have a doctor in place for the duration of both major events, as well the days immediately before and after.

“As the events come closer, and during the events, we will continue to fine-tune and adjust our response as required in collaboration with event organisers, the QAS, police and the RFDS.’’

Ms Quin said, while Central West Health was doing its part to keep people safe and well during major events like the Big Red Bash and Birdsville Race, visitors also should prepare themselves for the trek to the outback.

“Visitors to our far western regions should remember no pharmacies are available in remote areas of the state and regular medications may be difficult to obtain – and this includes Birdsville,’’ she said.

The other Central West communities also affected include Boulia, Bedourie, Windorah, Jundah, Isisford, Tambo, Jericho, Muttaburra, and Aramac.

Ms Quin said the health facilities in these communities were all primary health centres which had nurses available for routine primary care services from Monday to Friday and which provided a 24-hour emergency response service through the triple zero system.

“As a rule, when you are travelling anywhere, you need to carry adequate stock of your prescription medications for your entire trip,’’ she said.

“So, plan and be prepared ahead of time, with adequate medications, prescriptions and have a letter with your medical history from your doctor in case you require medical services.

“When you require a script to be filled in these remote areas it can be problematic as the closest pharmacy to, for instance, Birdsville, is either Longreach or Mount Isa and there may be a significant delay in obtaining your medication even from these areas because of limited supply.

“The delay in getting medication to you may be as long as a week. Depending on how important regular daily intake of your medication is, this could easily turn into a medical emergency if you have to go some days without it.

“Although our primary health centres, like Birdsville, don’t have pharmacies, we can respond to emergencies and non-life-threatening conditions where you may require medications such as a course of antibiotics.’’

Ms Quin said visitors also should remember to carry documentation such as Medicare and concession cards.

“Being well prepared prior to travel limits the need to access non-emergency services,’’ she said.

Preparing to travel out West

Before leaving home, go through the following list and check off each point. When completed, print it all out and bring it with you.

  • Health summary - ask your General Practitioner to provide a printed health summary and medication list (including name, dose and frequency for all medications), and to upload a copy to your MyHealthRecord.
  • Prescriptions - enough scripts to last your planned trip plus a few more weeks. Make sure you have eScripts arranged and a copy of the eScript downloaded to your smart device. But also bring your paper scripts with you as a back-up.
  • Medication – it is essential that you bring enough medication to last for your planned trip plus a few weeks more. Primary health centres in remote communities do not have onsite pharmacies and cannot supply your medication. Compounded medications or special supply medications should be arranged well in advance and be brought with you. Consider carefully if these medications require refrigeration as temperatures whilst mild for the Central West may be warmer than you expect.
  • Health providers contact list - details for your GP, specialists, pharmacist, dentist etc.
  • Implant details - include manufacturer’s information sheets for your implant/s.
  • Advance Care Planning documents – bring printed versions and also ensure they’re uploaded to MyHealthRecord.
  • First aid kit – Make sure your first aid kit includes pressure immobilisation bandages for snake bites.
  • Dressings – If you require ongoing wound care and use specific or prescribed dressings, bring enough to last your planned trip plus a few more weeks.
  • Spare batteries – to charge your smart devices (don’t forget your charging cables!)
  • Mobile coverage – there is only one telecommunications provider in Birdsville and coverage along the roads in and out of Birdsville is rare. You may like to rent a satellite phone or obtain a Telstra sim card to use when in Birdsville.

Ms Quin said people in remote areas calling in an emergency also could help themselves and any first responders by ensuring their location could be quickly and easily identified.

“For this, I encourage all rural residents, or people travelling in country areas, to download the Emergency+ (plus) app,’’ she said.

“In many cases, people aren't aware of their location, especially if they are in open space areas like beaches, parks, long stretches of roads or simply unfamiliar with their surroundings.

“But these days, more than 65 per cent of incoming calls to Triple Zero nationally are now made from mobile phones.

“The Emergency+ app allows the GPS functionality of smartphones to provide emergency services with a person’s location information as determined by their smartphone, even if the phone is out of range of mobile service.

“Latitude and longitude details can be relayed to an emergency operator as well as an address and location details.

“This application definitely has the capacity to save lives, and everyone should have it on their smartphones, no matter where they live.’’