Gaps in rural health care?


A front page story in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) newspaper on Monday highlighting the gaps in rural health care has well and truly stirred up Cobar residents.

The article relays the personal health experience of Cobar resident John Stingemore, and also includes comments about our declining health care system from Cr Jarrod Marsden and Bill Howlett.

On average two patients per week are transported from Cobar to Dubbo for further treatment with the article reporting those transport costs totaled $500,000 in 2017/2018.

A lack of staff, pilots working maximum hours, low patient to staff ratios and the need for expectant mothers to travel to Dubbo to await the birth of their babies were all issues highlighted in the SMH article.

When the article was shared to social media on Monday morning a number of locals shared their “bad” medical experiences while others jumped to the defence of the staff who they felt were being attacked.

State Member for Barwon, Roy Butler, who made comments for the SMH article, said the story was not an attack on the local nursing staff who he believes are doing a fantastic job.

Mr Butler said he worked on the story with the SMH to highlight what’s going on with the health system in Barwon.

“Sadly it’s an all too familiar story for us out west, a trip to the local hospital ends with someone packed up into an ambulance or plane and taken to a bigger centre,” Mr Butler said

The health system is spending millions every year on these evacuations, but what’s hidden is the cost to all of us, the many trips we have to take to seek care – paying out of our own back pocket, and the people that pack up and leave our towns because the risk to their health and the toll it’s taking is simply too much,” Mr Butler said.

“The health workers we do have in Barwon are fantastic, and this is not criticism of them, but the health system is seriously broken. It’s going to take more than new hospital buildings to fix it.”

Mr Butler said since he was elected last March he has been pushing Barwon’s health issues with the Health Minister and the Local Health Districts to look at new ways to deliver health care in Barwon.

“They can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome,” Mr Butler said.

Western NSW Local Health District  Chief Executive Scott McLachlan said the Cobar  Health Service has a highly skilled and committed workforce.

“I have a lot of confidence in our staff. They do a fantastic job looking after people,” Mr McLachlan said.

“We do everything possible to keep people in their home town and in their home hospital. That’s our first priority.”

Mr McLachlan said however in the case of a heart attack or a major trauma, the best place to be is in a bigger hospital that has access to a wider range of specialist services.