Boska Wyatt, Rebekha Ryan, Mary-Anne McCluskey, Liliapin Efendy Poormina Amaranarayana, Louise Holland and Christine Armstrong. Photo: ANDREW PERRYMAN

THE expansion of health services for women from a doctor and a sexual health nurse one afternoon a week to four doctors and four nurses is meeting the increased demand from central Victorian women and gives them the information to make up their own mind.

Christine Armstrong, who was the sole doctor 12 years ago, remembers being booked up to six weeks ahead for consultations.

Dr Armstrong said the increased access since Bendigo Community Health Services became regional Victoria’s first women’s sexual and reproductive health hub meant long gone are the days when women might have faced a 12-month wait to have an intrauterine contraceptive inserted.

Any one in the team of eight is qualified to carry out the procedure, consultations are taking place at two locations and there is more time to get to know patients.

“There is a big focus on sexual health information and education, and our sexual health nurses provide sexual education to school groups and just within appointments themselves,” Dr Armstrong said.

“So overall, we are just empowering women to have choices and make informed decisions around their health care.”

It also means younger women are having longer conversations about their sexual and reproductive health with a nurse which many find is a more gentle way of opening up to a discussion, according to clinical nurse consultant Louise Holland.

“Sometimes young people like to see a nurse first, particularly in terms of conversations around reproductive health they might not have had with family members, or they have been referred by a wellbeing officer at school,” Ms Holland said.

For more information on the services offered by Bendigo Community Health Services visit www.bchs.com.au or call 5448 1600.