WHEN Barb Cook wasn't helping bring new life into the world as a midwife on Emerald Hospital's maternity wing, her life was "a suitcase, laptop and a room".
The Deception Bay-based registered nurse was a willing 860km one way drive in, drive out worker, and when there were cheap air fares less than $200 she would join the fly in, fly out brigade - one of only three or four female passengers along with "burly men in their high-vis gear".
Ms Cook, who worked in Emerald on secondments from 2003 to 2006 before relocating in 2009, recalled her time as bringing tremendous job satisfaction, but in a submission to the House of Representatives FIFO inquiry called for Queensland Health to deliver better conditions for agency and non-resident nurses servicing rural areas.
As a DIDO/FIFO she also claimed to have encountered social prejudice within the town.
"Many locals did not want to associate with FIFO or DIDO employees," Ms Cook stated.
"I would always identify myself as a local to protect myself from harmful comments berating how FIFO or DIDO workers had 'started to destroy the town', or, 'of course you are not a local so you wouldn't understand'.
"Personally I found some local community organisations dysfunctional and intolerant of newbies in their community."
Ms Cook said discussions with Emerald nurses and midwifery staff had raised a number of issues in ensuring the safe delivery of service at the hospital.
Poor or inadequate accommodation provided for agency shift workers working in hot conditions.
Little input into poor rosters of 10 days on, four days off as per the award, when many would like to work two weeks on, one week off to return to home and have a better work/life balance.
Difficulty in getting access to professional development and training unless travelling to Rockhampton or flying out to other places.
The lack of choices and high costs for basics like fresh vegetables, foods and groceries.
Another bone of contention in Ms Cook's submission was the disparity in wages between nursing staff and locum doctors and specialists who command between $1500 and $3000 a day.
"Locums should not be paid more than those working beside them as that created greater resentment within all levels of staff," she said of the rural medical and allied health locums who were given 'very generous remuneration and other benefits to keep them'.
"Some nurses had in fact left nursing to work in the mines due to better employment conditions and better wages.
"Driving the big mine trucks they had a more predictable workload and greater recognition for their efforts."
Ms Cook has relocated to Kingaroy, saying the summer flood which isolated Emerald "played havoc with my sense of well-being".
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