Bendigo Community Health Services is home to more than 50 services and 250 staff. Take a journey through our organisation to learn more about our services and programs by meeting some of our wonderful staff through our blog Discovering BCHS…

MOST people know her as the friendly face at the front desk of Bendigo Community Health Services in Eaglehawk, but Jacinta Fleming has taken an interesting road to her current role.

“This is my first client services job,” she says of the position welcoming the hundreds of men, women and children who visit the medical and allied health centre every week.

“I was a rice tester initially.” Say what?

“It involves jumping on the back of big semis that come into the silos and putting a plunger tube into the rice to take a test and make sure there’s no moisture or burrs or foreign matter.

“If there’s too much moisture in the rice and it gets into the silos, it will set the whole lot off and make it go mouldy.”

Jacinta worked at rice storage silos situated at Caldwell, NSW, between Barham and her home town of Deniliquin.

After moving to Bendigo, she worked for over a decade at Hazeldene’s chicken farm before becoming a mother and cleaned the Allara Motel in White Hills while her kids were young.

She has now been at BCHS for almost six years and loves meeting and greeting clients and getting to know them.

“We have a lot of elderly clients and they love to have a chat,” she says.

“It’s not just about making appointments and attending to them and putting them in their seat, we try to be social and make our clients feel welcome and comfortable.

“It’s always lovely to see them. You also might see them down the street and they will wave to you and that’s quite nice.”

For the past year, Jacinta has also volunteered with the BCHS Community Connections dementia project – speaking directly to sufferers and their families to uncover their needs.

The project aims to increase the community’s capacity to deal with dementia by providing the support and services they actually require, rather than what others think might be useful.

Ironically, Jacinta’s father was diagnosed with early-onset dementia and agreed to be filmed talking about his experiences – though at the time she wasn’t fully across her dad’s situation.

“He’d been diagnosed about four years ago, but he later told me it had been misdiagnosed and the forgetfulness was because of his medication, so I thought he didn’t have it any more.

“During the interview, I realised he really did have it and my jaw just about hit the floor.”

Jacinta says she has learnt so much about dementia and its effects from talking to those affected, and is now more confident about helping her own family through the journey ahead.

“I can give my family more information now than I could have a year ago. I talk to my dad about it now, about things that can and may happen. He might not remember down the track, but he remembers now so why not talk about it?

“You can’t push it to one side and pretend it’s not there, because it is something he has got and it is there. And I have more confidence speaking about it because I know so much more.”

Jacinta says she values the importance of community health, having seen people travel from all around Bendigo to seek affordable treatment and services at the Eaglehawk clinic.

Her job takes patience, understanding, and a great big dose of caring.

“You really have to care for everyone who walks in that front door - everyone is different, so you have to learn who they are and what they like, especially the regulars.

“You get to know their doctor too, so that when they call or come in, you don’t even have to ask who they need to see because you already know.”

Away from work, Jacinta is a big fan of Richmond in the AFL and Huntly in the Heathcote and District league. While she no longer plays netball for Huntly herself, she still helps organise the traditional Thursday night teas for all the footballers and netballers.

She also loves watching son James, 13, and daughter Emily, 10, on their sporting fields.

“We enjoy travelling, too, though we don’t go too far. Usually it is up to mum and dad’s at Deni, or camping for the weekend to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.”