Wee Waa Chamber of Commerce is one of hundreds of organisations and individuals across country NSW which have lodged a submission into the inquiry into Rural and Regional Healthcare.
Acting president of the chamber, John Tully, said the chamber’s submission highlighted inadequacies in health care which were vital services to underwrite the survival and growth of small communities.
“We are trying to attract young families to our town.
“The go ahead in the shire generally, agriculture, gas, mining, the inland port, will bring a lot of employment to the shire and we would love to attract people to our town.
“The first thing young families look at as key services is schooling, healthcare and banking,” Mr Tully said.
“As a community group, the Chamber of Commerce has heard many disturbing accounts of poor access to healthcare in Wee Waa and the surrounding district,” the chamber’s submission to the inquiry said.
“Wee Waa has a population of around 1600, although this is rapidly declining due to deficiencies in the availability of health care and the town also services extensive outlying areas.
“We have one GP.
“It is widely agreed that this town needs at least two more full-time doctors. Residents are often forced to travel a further 42 km to Narrabri for healthcare, with some already having travelled 80km just to get to Wee Waa.
“The services our hospital offers have declined markedly in recent years. It is now heavily reliant on the Small Towns After Hours system which is grossly inadequate in most situations.
“The strain is evident on our local nurses, some of whom have left the profession as a result.”
The chamber’s submission listed several cases which illustrated its concerns about ‘poor outcomes resulting from limited access to health services in Wee Waa.’
“Many residents, particularly the elderly, have lost faith in the provision of local healthcare and live their lives in fear of not being able to receive the necessary healthcare in their time of need.
“We are sure there are many instances of people who have either delayed or decided not to bother seeking medical treatment due to the difficulties in accessing it locally.
“It simply does not make any moral or economic sense to under-resource healthcare in regional communities.
“Wee Waa’s poor access to healthcare also has negative economic implications for our town.
“We are aware of many residents who have already left town purely due to the inadequate access to healthcare, and of many others who are seriously considering doing the same.
“There would be many potential residents who ‘swiped left’ at Wee Waa when looking for a possible new home, due to its current deficiencies in availability of healthcare.
“Additionally, residents needing to travel out of town for healthcare are less likely to spend money in town, continuing the downward spiral of our small community, like many other small communities in regional NSW. This current situation, which has gone on for years, is literally killing our town.
“It is simply not good enough.”
Member for Barwon Roy Butler has been advocating for the inquiry into regional health services and urging residents to lodge submissions to the inquiry.
“The stories that we are seeing emerge from submissions to the health enquiry are emblematic of what we in the bush have known for years – our health system is broken” Mr Butler said.
“Seeing these stories – our stories – come to light in the metropolitan media, and seeing people in Sydney react to the fact that these things are happening in our own backyard is validating.
“The real test will be however how the NSW government chooses to deal with this damning feedback.
“So far the responses I have seen from the health agencies on this have fallen flat.
“Despite the incredibly personal experiences people have shared through this process the NSW government through the health bureaucrats have seen fit to respond by giving themselves a pat on the back for investing in health infrastructure.
“Shiny buildings don’t save people’s lives, they don’t ensure our nurses aren’t working themselves to exhaustion, and they don’t make sure we have well supported doctors in our hospitals.
“The NSW health system must address what’s happening with regional health care, they cannot say that the experiences people are sharing are in the minority.
I will not stand by and allow people in regional NSW to be fobbed off when we are talking about matters of life and death.
“I have spoken with the chair, deputy Cchair and members of the Committee urging them to not allow this inquiry to be a political football,” Mr Butler said.
“We need to see positive and prospective recommendations that change health outcomes for people in regional NSW.
“In addition I have written to the committee urging them to refer all individual cases where there has been a failing in care to the Health Care Complaints Commission. These cases must be independently investigated using the full powers of the HCCC to uncover how these incidences occurred.”
The Parliamentary Inquiry will begin public hearings from March 19, with several expected to be held in rural and regional NSW.
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