Dr Helen Paterson is a woman on a mission to improve access to healthcare services for rural women up and down the country.
She and her nurse offsider Alice van Zijl drive a women's health bus named 'Betty' that travels across Otago and Southland that offers gynecological services to women who may have to travel very long distances just to see a doctor.
One of the key talking points revolves around the origins and practicality of Betty. Dr. Patterson reflects on her time working at a hospital in Dunedin, where she witnessed firsthand the challenges rural women faced.
"If you live in central Otago and beyond... people would have to drive to Dunedin for their 30-minute appointment."
The reality of a three-and-a-half-hour drive for a brief consultation sparked the idea for a mobile clinic, with her partner encouraging her to pursue this dream. As the conversation unfolds, the importance of community support and the innovative adaptations made during the COVID-19 pandemic are highlighted.
Dr. Patterson appreciates a grant from the Ministry of Women that "really helped those people who, of course, you know travel was a real problem during that time."
Despite the pandemic-related challenges, Betty continued to serve as a beacon of relief and care. Another significant aspect discussed is the financial model that keeps the clinic running. Betty operates under a non-profit status, with Dr. Patterson noting, "We still have to pay for it...we also accept donations so that we can offset the cost for people."
This model enables them to provide care at reduced or no cost for those who cannot afford it, depending on the availability of funds. The mobile clinic also receives support through contracts with hospitals and medical insurance, demonstrating a collaborative effort to fund this essential service.
The personalised care approach is mirrored in the website's spelling, with an 'a' instead of an 'e' to signify the focus on individuals.
"Our website is probably the best one... at womanshealth.nz, and it's an A, not an E, because we look after people, not groups," she says, reinforcing the mission of personalised patient care.
This podcast episode celebrates the strides made in reducing healthcare inequities for rural women. It underscores Dr. Patterson's dedication to identifying and breaking down the barriers to access, using innovative solutions to deliver healthcare where it's needed most.
Listen to the full chat between Dr Helen Paterson and Dominic George above.