Like so many Australians who work in health service delivery, Heart of Australia Driver, Greg Hiscock prefers to work quietly in the background and let the services speak for themselves.
“Everything we do is a team effort. The doctors, the crew on the trucks and the team in the office – we’re all working together. The drivers are a part of that team.”
A third-generation heavy-truck driver, Greg was in the process of looking for his next challenge, and a bit of a career change when he happened to see the Australian Story episode featuring Heart of Australia.
“I guess you could say I was born into truck driving. But after 45 years of driving, and spending the last 20 years in heavy haulage, carting equipment for the mining industry, I was looking for something a bit different to move into.”
“It was just luck I happened to see the Australian Story episode. As soon as it ended, I did a Google search and saw they were looking for drivers.
“I looked through the requirements for the role, and what it would involve, including being comfortable driving oversized vehicles, and being happy talking to people in the bush. Coming from Beaudesert, I love talking with country people. And I had lots of previous experience driving oversized vehicles. It was like this role was made for me.”
Greg applied for the job and was offered a position as one of Heart of Australia’s drivers.
“I’ve been here ever since.”
Greg says being a driver for Heart of Australia is unlike any other heavy truck driving job you’re likely to find.
“It’s not a flat-out drivers job – it’s so much more than that. You’ve got to have the experience to be able to drive the trucks, but there is so much more you get to do.
“To me, the Driver’s role is like being the captain of a cruise ship. I feel responsible for the wellbeing of everyone aboard. I do whatever needs doing to help keep the patients happy and comfortable and to ensure the doctors, the sonographers and the crew get what they need to do the best job possible.
“That means I’m whatever I need to be on any given day – a cook, a chauffeur, a greeter, a cleaner, a repairman or a gopher. And no two days are ever the same.”
“To do this job, you must be ready to try your hand at anything and everything. You’ve also got to be a people person that’s happy to mix and work closely with a team.
Greg says the role is a very social one.
“I work with a very vibrant team of people who I love being with. It’s definitely a team environment, top to bottom, and that starts with Dr Gomes. Everyone’s equal, and we all pull together to do whatever we have to, to deliver the service to the patients.”
“It’s also very social with the patients. Looking after them and talking to them is a big part of the job. It’s one of the best things about it. Country Queensland is right up my alley, out there everyone has a story.”
“Speaking to people from the country, and hearing their stories, you get to really understand how vital our service is to them. They’ll tell you straight – there’s a big difference between driving two-minutes down the road to the truck versus being away from home for two to three days for someone who’s not well.
Greg said another major perk for him was always knowing when he’ll be home.
“In my previous roles, it was never certain. I could be away for 5-7 weeks and not know when I’d be back. The way the rosters are written with Heart of Australia, there is always certainty. I really like knowing I’ll be home next Thursday.”
When asked what the best part of his job was, Greg said it was seeing the impact it has on people’s lives.
“A great example happened when we pulled the truck into Charleville. The doctor treated a woman that lived two minutes up the road from where we had set up our clinic.
“She had very swollen ankles and could hardly walk, however, because we were so close all it took was a little help from her grandson to get her seen. After seeing the cardiologist who treated her condition, she was back home in just a few minutes. If we weren’t there, she would have had to go all the way to Brisbane to get the same treatment.
“I’ve had patients yarn to me about the distance they used to have to travel before we came to town. A lot of them didn’t make those trips for help because of the distance. They just ‘battled through’ it.”
“And we’ve had moments where people have come onto the truck saying they aren’t feeling well, and the doctor has picked up they are having a heart attack right then.
“When things like that happen right in front of you, it hits home. That’s why we do it. If you save one life, that’s a big deal. And we’re saving lots more than one. That alone makes it all worth it, that’s how I know what we do is great”.
It was a happy moment of chance that brought St George local Mary-Ann, her family and the Heart of Australia team together.
It was 2014, and members of the Heart of Australia team were in St George planning the logistics and scouting for accommodation ahead of the launch of HEART1. They visited the Jacaranda Country Motel, owned and managed by Mary-Ann Crowe.
Mary-Ann recalls it was a fortunate meeting for all concerned.
“The Heart of Australia staff member came into the motel looking for quotes for rooms. We got chatting, and he told me about the specialist trucks and the medical services Heart of Australia would be offering to St George and other parts of rural Queensland.
“We were over the moon to hear about this service because my daughter Cassandra had several complicated health issues. It felt like him walking into our motel was meant to be.”
When Mary-Ann’s daughter Cassandra was born, her life expectancy was short, but they had not factored in the strength, determination and resilience of Cassandra and her mother. But there were challenges. Cassandra had down syndrome, and a complicated heart condition, among other health issues that required significant specialist attention.
“St George has some great medical care. However, due to the severity of Cassandra’s condition, the nearest specialist medical attention for the services she needed was at the Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane. For someone in poor health, the all-day travel it takes to get there is a hard trip to make. And you also have the cost of travel, overnight accommodation and the time away from work. It made it very hard to get her the right care that she deserved.”
“That all changed when Heart of Australia came to town.”
“Cassandra loved the truck. She loved the way Rolf and all the staff treated her so well and made her feel important. She loved feeling important. We loved the family-oriented values of Heart of Australia.
“Setting up the specialist medical clinic just a block down the road from our house gave us the opportunity to get her seen by specialists more than ever before. This ease of access became particularly vital as she got older, and her condition deteriorated.
“St George has some excellent GP’s; however, having the support of the specialists at HOA gave us peace of mind that we were doing everything possible. They helped us manage Cassandra’s deteriorating health condition, and they helped provide the GPs with the support they needed to be able to care for her.
“The last few years of Cassandra’s life were very hard, however, with help from Rolf and all the other doctors we managed to do as much as we could for as long as we could.
“We are so thankful they came when they did”.
“Cassandra had such a beautiful spirit. She absolutely loved life. Although she was almost deaf, she always managed to get her message through. She was even amazing at lip-reading… but only when she wanted to be.
Cassandra passed away in August 2018, 5 minutes past midnight on her mother Mary-Ann’s birthday.
“On Cassandra’s last day, she gathered all the grandkids around and gave them a very royal wave as she was taken away in the ambulance. She knew that was her last day, Cassandra asked us to pray for her, as she would soon become a butterfly in heaven.
Cassandra is one of the youngest patients that Heart of Australia has had the privilege to support.
“The services Heart of Australia provides are amazing, it’s just so important for country people to be able to stay in their towns if they want to. I know it was for Cassandra”.
Mary-Ann and her husband continue to run the Jacaranda Country Motel, and they will celebrate their 10th anniversary of managing the hotel next year.
“It’s been hard work, but we love it. It’s a tough time to own a rural motel. When rural Australia is in drought, it affects everyone. There are fewer workers, and companies send fewer salespeople and reps to town because people don’t have the money to buy what they’re selling. Fewer people coming to town means less demand for motel rooms.”
“The tourists can help, Grey nomads are great for the town, but they come with their own camper vans and don’t require accommodation. We’d love some more tourists to come and visit who also need a place to sleep. We’d take great care of them.”
“That’s my favourite part of owning our motel – the people. We love our regulars and the relationships we get to build. I love people, and I’m always interested to hear their stories.”
Mary-Ann is an active member of the St George & District Chamber of Commerce, and a passionate champion for buying goods and services from the local rural community.
“When you buy everything you can from local businesses, and hire local people, the money stays in the community for longer.”
“Being located in the beating heart of St George provides the opportunity to employ local people, buy local food, and keep as much money in the community as possible. Due to St George being a relatively small town, we strive to do as much as we can to support our local community”.
Heart of Australia is committed to supporting the communities we serve, both on and off the Heart Trucks. Part of the way we do that is by supporting local businesses whenever we come to town.
Members of the Heart of Australia team have been staying at The Jacaranda Country Motel when in St George since 2014.