Once again, the spotlight is on our health services in rural and regional New South Wales.

A new inquiry to inquire into the progress on the first inquiry has been announced.

It is clearly time to stop the political game-playing part of this process and get on with the job of building a better health system.

The original inquiry, which included significant and emotional submissions from our own shire, along with a hearing of the inquiry in Gunnedah, resulted in 44 recommendations. It painted a sad but entirely accurate picture of health care in the country, where New South Wales residents die sooner, are more likely to have chronic diseases, and can’t find a doctor or access a hospital for treatment.

The inquiry found the rural health system was “in crisis and failing residents”. That is no news to the people of Gunnedah, many of whom went years between doctor’s visits.

Now, 14 months on, we have improved access to GPs and limited additional health services. Our new hospital remains a mirage on the horizon.

The state government promise in 2019 – backed by the Minns government during the 2023 State Election campaign – of a comprehensive hospital redevelopment that would meet our desperate need for improved health care was met with relief and hope for the future. And yet four years later, we are stuck with a design that delivers only a fraction of the original plans. And we are yet to see any construction. Despite the much-lauded community consultation, the revised plan presented to council on July 10 this year falls short on so many services we were assured it would include. Where are the renal and chemotherapy services Gunnedah was promised?

Last week, the general manager and I met with the NSW Minister for Regional Health Ryan Park and told him that despite the stark recognition of the critical need for these services, Gunnedah shire was again being short-changed. We presented a comprehensive report highlighting a timeline of the tortuous process we have been through, from commitment to the project in 2019 through to release of the Master Plan in 2022, confirmation of commitment to the project by the Greens, Coalition and Labor candidates for Tamworth in February this year, and news it would not be delivered as promised just last month.

Our growing community deserves access to great health services in their home town. They deserve to have their lives valued as highly as those of the people who live in the city.

We were made no promises by Minister Park, although he has taken our concerns on board to discuss with Treasury. We called for the shortfall to be allocated in the September 19 State Budget.

I will continue to advocate for our community and their right to equity in health care, because a second inquiry can only find that the shortcomings discovered in the first have not yet been addressed.

Gunnedah Hospital redevelopment timeline: Hospital Redevelopment – Timeline (1).pdf

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