Management of Episodes of Incapacity by Families in Rural and Remote Queensland


Dr Sansnee Jirojwong, Faculty of Arts, Health and Sciences, Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, Queensland 4701, Australia.


Abstract: People in rural and remote areas have relatively poor health, so limited availability of and accessibility to doctors are major health issues. This cross-sectional study was conducted in rural and remote areas of Central Queensland. Using telephone interviews, the study described the use of formal and informal health services by families in response to episodes of incapacity. An episode of incapacity was defined as inability to conduct ordinary activities for at least half a day due to new or continued illness. Of the 394 households contacted, 270 (68.5%) provided information about 698 household members, of whom 269 (38.5%) reported at least one episode of incapacity in the previous 12 months. The respondents could report more than one type of management of an illness episode. The management of the most recent episode in each member included 68% visiting doctors and 8.2% using services at an accident and emergency unit. Persons living in ‘least’ medically resourced areas were more likely than persons in relatively ‘high’ and ‘moderate’ areas to consult doctors, but were also more likely to first consult books and delay their visits. They also consulted by telephone three times more frequently. Only 7% consulted other health practitioners including nurses and chemists, suggesting that these health practitioners were not used by families in rural and remote areas during episodes of incapacity. Increasing the availability and accessibility of medical care resources in rural and remote areas, using alternative delivery methods such as telemedicine, may meet the health needs of rural populations.