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Roslyn Mearns has to travel from Aldavilla to Lake Cathie for hydrotherapy treatment because the pools at the public hospitals in Port Macquarie and Kempsey remain closed.
Mrs Mearns, who was diagnosed with osteoarthritis last year, said there is a real need for them to re-open.
"There are so many different facilities that are just there but can't be accessed," she said.
"You sort of feel like you're dropping down into a forgotten tunnel."
Port Macquarie Base Hospital and Kempsey District Hospital closed their hydrotherapy pools in March 2020; during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mid North Coast Local Health District Chief Executive Stewart Dowrick said that the health district was reviewing their future viability.
"The local health district is currently inspecting the ageing infrastructure and assessing the maintenance requirements for ongoing compliance with regulations in relation to facilities like this," he said.
Both pools will remain closed until the outcomes of the review are known but in the meantime, residents like Mrs Mearns are having to seek treatment elsewhere.
Osteoarthritis has been a difficult burden for Mrs Mearns.
She suffers pain in the middle of the night, her reactions are slower and now her left leg has "collapsed".
Mowing the lawn is a struggle, with her foot in pain every time her leg presses the pedal on her ride-on mower.
Last year, when her right leg collapsed and she received her diagnosis, Mrs Mearns was able to access a hydrotherapy pool operating in Lake Cathie.
"The pool was helping [and] it was strengthening my knee," she said.
"It saved me from getting a knee replacement."
The treatment was helpful but with so many others needing the pool, sessions were limited.
This year she's been able to get another booking but driving the long distance has meant she's feeling the strain in both her leg and her pocket.
"You have to pay to use the pool but also the cost of fuel... is becoming more and more," she said.
Mrs Mearns moved to the Macleay six years ago after the death of her husband. She wanted a more affordable lifestyle.
But with animals to look after, the cost of medication, travel expenses and limited hydrotherapy options, Mrs Mearns is concerned about having a knee replacement sooner than expected.
"It's a worry and a half," she said.
"If I can [recover] doing hydrotherapy, I can keep having a normal life."
Local public pools aren't an option either.
Osteoarthritis has made climbing steep stairs or ladders difficult, if not impossible, and many public pools don't offer easy accessibility nor the controlled environment that a hydrotherapy pool would provide.
"If I won the lotto, I would fix the hydrotherapy pool so that everyone could get better," she said.
"It's like a never-ending story that could easily be solved."
The Kempsey hydrotherapy pool had been installed through community fundraising as part of the Kempsey Sesquicentenary in 1986.
Over 30 local businesses and organisations donated to the hydrotherapy pool project which raised $150,350 for the service and has been used by a range of residents since.
Director and principal physiotherapist at Keystone Health Michael Kemp said his patients were using the pool regularly before the pool closed.
"Hydrotherapy is really important for a multitude of patients," he said.
"You can take up to 70 per cent of your weight off if you're up to your chest [in the water] and that allows people to move their joints through a range of motion that is unencumbered by weight."
Mr Kemp also said that patients unable to walk due to neurological conditions benefited from the hydrotherapy pool.
"They get such a joy and freedom of movement in the pool with one on one treatment that it's really a shame to not be able to offer those services."
Mr Kemp, who was preselected as the NSW Nationals candidate for the seat of Oxley, didn't disclose whether the hydrotherapy pool would be key issue for his campaign but did say he would be focusing on reducing red tape in the area.
"I'd like to explore any excessive red tape and make sure that we're utilising services that are costing us money for the appropriate outcomes for our community."
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