A petition calling on the NSW parliament to split the Hunter New England Local Health District has amassed more than 5000 signatures since its launch almost two weeks ago.
The petition was launched by Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall and calls for a break-up of the health district.
If successful, Tamworth would be the centre of a health district which takes in the New England and North West regions.
Mr Marshall said the response to the petition had been overwhelming.
“Since we launched this petition, the response from communities large and small across our region has been mind-blowing and I’m confident that we can maintain that momentum to reach the goal of 10,000 signatures and go well beyond that,” Mr Marshall said.
“Every signature is hugely important and it has been amazing how businesses, community groups, councils and individuals have taken on the challenge to get the petition to as many people as possible.
“The 10,000 signatures are needed to trigger a debate on the floor of state parliament and force immediate action.”
Mr Marshall said the groundswell of dissent clearly demonstrates to the government that this is a burning issue for many in the New England North West region and that people won’t rest until they are heard and changes made.
In addition to a district break-up, the petition also requests the Legislative Assembly to directly employ doctors in emergency departments in rural and regional district hospitals, with the capacity to provide in-hospital outpatient services.
Its third point requests a dramatic increase in the number of nurses employed in rural and regional hospitals with appropriate nurse to patient ratios.
Speaking at the petition’s launch last month, Mr Marshall said this petition had been borne out of sheer frustration.
“Our communities are getting a raw deal and we’re all sick to the back teeth of seeing our hard-working nurses get worked to the bone, no doctors in our hospitals and local lives put at risk, on a weekly basis,” Mr Marshall said.
“It is time to combine forces across the New England and North West, speak with one tremendously loud voice through this petition and demand that our health services are directed by local voices responding to local needs.
“It is blindingly obvious that a corporate structure based in the Hunter at Newcastle, has little regard for those communities on the outskirts, with some centres almost 700km away from the head office.”
Mr Marshall, who hopes to see at least 10,000 people sign the petition, wants to table the petition to state parliament later this year.
“We want to see more than 10,000 people sign this petition, not just to trigger the debate in parliament but to demonstrate to the government that this isn’t just a few pesky politicians and the union whinging, this is a burning issue for everyone in our region and we won’t rest until we are heard and changes made,” he said.
“If we’re all united, no one can ignore the wishes of thousands upon thousands of people.
“Our communities are seeking a more responsive, localised health service, which is designed to meet the needs of rural people.”
The petition has been partly borne from concerns of the size of the Hunter New England district which incorporates the metropolitan area of Newcastle and surrounding populated areas in the Hunter region.
These concerns specifically mention that the current district is the only area in the state to incorporate both metropolitan and rural areas.
As such, proponents of the petition argue Tamworth would serve as better headquarters for a rural-based health district.To order photos from this page click here