Pokémanic: Tales from the rural frontline

By Thomas de Vries

Pokémon GO pandemic stuns rural GPs

KYNETON — The recently released open world, augmented reality smartphone game challenges users to walk around outside to find and catch virtual Pokémon. It has been blamed for the inundation of healthcare providers with patients with trauma from accidents related to inattention. Rural and remote communities have been hit the hardest, with local GPs often having no access to hospitals often being forced to come up with novel ways to deal with emergencies on the fly.

Urban hospitals have also experienced an influx of trauma patients due to Pokémon GO use, however, superior resources available to them have meant that they have been able to weather the storm of patients suffering from preoccupation related injuries. Isolated rural health services on the other hand are less fortunate in terms of resources, and the Pokémon GO phenomenon has pushed some health services almost to breaking point.

In 2009, Dr. Rob Carson from rural Victorian town Maryborough floored jaws when he used a maintenance drill to bore a hole into a 12-year-old’s skull to relieve the pressure of a bleed on his brain, caused by a simple pushbike accident, saving his life. However, once extraordinary, it seems that feats like this may end up becoming commonplace if experts’ predictions about the addictive and distracting game are correct.

Remote Queensland community Black Stump has a population of 685 and is serviced by a single GP practice, with the closest hospital 5 hours’ drive away. It has reported a twenty-fold increase in presentations of people with injuries attributed to the game. “It’s the Pokémon gym by the grain silo that has been causing us the most trouble,” said exhausted local GP Dr. Anthony Weller. “It had got around town that some youngsters had found a high level Charizard there. Before you knew it, we had fifteen people come in who had either fallen off the silo or been hit by the twice-weekly grain transport train while staring at their phones trying to find and catch the bastard.” Dr. Weller hung his head and lamented, “This all could have been prevented if I had told everyone I’d caught the bugger in the first place.”

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Pokemon Go has resulted in an unprecedented workload for rural health practitioners.

Peculiarly, pain for patients and GPs affected by Pokémon GO has resulted in gain for medical students placed in rural communities. Students of Monash University’s acclaimed NVRMEN program have been asked to assist in managing the influx of patients. “I have reattached sixteen fingers, seven legs, three arms and a head on my first week,” says Charlotte Blake, currently in the fourth year of her medical degree and placed in a remote Australian community nobody has ever heard of. “My recent capture of the Pokémon Machamp has really sparked a passion for arms and legs and I’ve been inspired to go on to pursue appendage reattachment surgery.”

The Australian Minister for Rural Health, Fiona Nash, was approached to comment on what has been termed a national health crisis, but declined citing a huge post-election workload. Sources say she was overheard soon after attempting to catch “that bloody Snorlax that’s blocking the way to Malcolm’s office.”

Deputy leader of the Labor party, Tania Plibersek, was overheard at Parliament House expressing her frustration at the game and the strain it is putting on the relationship between her and Labor leader Bill Shorten, igniting whispers of the sixty-second leadership spill in as many hours.


This article was previously published in WILDFIRE’s FireFront newsletter, available at their website. WILDFIRE is Monash University’s Rural and Indigenous Health Club. Featured image by Luke Fletcher.

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