THE NSW parliamentary inquiry into health and hospital services across the state is making its way to the Mid North Coast this month.
The inquiry was established in September 2020 to inquire into and report on health outcomes and access to health and hospital services in rural, regional and remote New South Wales.
It is holding 10 hearings in regional communities to listen to experiences from some of the 700 individuals, councils and organisations who lodged submissions.
One of those hearings will be held in Taree on June 16. The final hearing will be held in Sydney on December 2, 2021.
The inquiry has already sat in Deniliquin, Cobar, Dubbo and Wellington.
Several witnesses have spoken about regional and rural hospitals being better resourced 20 years ago and the devastating impact of burnout affecting healthcare staff across the state.
Among the submissions, Phillipe Millard shares his experience of the hospitalisation and care of his disabled brother at Port Macquarie Base and Kempsey hospitals which are part of the Mid North Coast Health District.
Mr Millard in his submission wished to outline the difficulties he had accessing and ensuring appropriate healthcare, diagnosis, treatment, referral and outcomes for his 47-year-old intellectually disabled brother; and how delays and challenges faced when seeking referrals or specialist mental health care can "cause a chain of events that can be lifechanging for that individual and their family".
"I ... hope that no other family will suffer such poor standards of access to healthcare, especially persons with disability who often cannot communicate and advocate for themselves," Mr Millard said.
"Country people deserve better with it comes to their health and people need to be referred on where there is not the specialist care available in rural NSW.
"I believe if I had not been such a strong advocate for my brother, the situation may have been much worse and he would have died. I hold concerns for anyone trying to navigate a system that focuses more on its budget, than its people."
Great Lakes Mental Health Carer Support Group highlighted the lack of support services for people with mental health challenges.
The nearest mental health hub is at Port Macquarie which falls under a different area health service.
The group proposes a holistic community drop-in service delivered by mental health professionals including allied support and peer workers to engage with those seeking help within the hub and also by outreach.
Journalist Liz Hayes, who shared her father Bryan Ryan's story on 60 Minutes, cited medication errors that resulted in a "catastrophic stroke" and ultimately her father's death.
"During our family meeting with hospital management, it was explained that this situation of just one doctor to cover all patients, was because 'that's the case in most country hospitals'," Ms Hayes was told when she sought answers from Mayo Private and Manning Base hospitals in Taree.
She said a "total rethink is required" about how hospital budgets are spent to ensure the best outcomes for patients and staff.
"It's clear governments and their health departments need to nail down how to attract doctors to live and work in rural communities. And it's essential for rural communities with specific needs to receive help, whether it be mental health services, palliative care or as in the Manning-Great Lakes region, cardiac care where heart issues are amongst the worst in the state," Ms Hayes concluded in her submission.
"It's time for an open and honest conversation so as those who work at the coalface, the patients they care for and their communities are heard. For too long, people in the country, those who have no choice but to rely on their local health services, have felt powerless and voiceless."
Hospital and health service workers on the Mid North Coast were also among those who lodged submissions.
Shadow Minister for Health Ryan Park said the hearings have highlighted the desperate need for more support and resources.
"The health inquiry has provided significant evidence surrounding the healthcare crisis impacting NSW," Mr Park said.
"It is heartbreaking hearing the personal accounts of people who are working tirelessly through overtime to provide quality care, or hearing from patients and their loved ones who've struggled to get treatment.
"This government's neglect when it comes to healthcare is obvious and must be addressed."
Shadow Minister for Rural Health Kate Washington said the government needs to wake up and realise the full extent of this "crisis".
"Communities are telling us they need more staff, better resources and access to at least basic health services. It's not too much to ask," Ms Washington said.
"This government's decade of neglect and city-centric agenda is leaving regional and rural communities behind. Your postcode shouldn't determine your access to healthcare services."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: