Please return us post-haste to the first world

Opinion: Bring us home to the first world on health

Opinion
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Babies being born by the side of the road, no medical staff, what's becoming of regional NSW?

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IT SEEMS every time there is an election, be it state or federal, health is at the forefront of the voters', the incumbent government's and the aspiring contenders' minds. Every time.

Throughout last year The Land ran a series of "Next Crop" forums in regional NSW.

Without exception, staffing and the quality of health services offered in the regions was a major bug bear.

Stories of babies being born in the back of cars and pregnant women having to ply rough country roads to get to doctors were aplenty.

The regions demand and deserve better than this.

This is the stuff of third world countries, not the lot of a "rich, lucky" country that politicians so often tell us Australia is.

In the regions much of the state's wealth is generated by either farmers or miners, and yet the services they receive in kind are below par.

The Murrumbidgee Local Health District is in the worst shape in the state (see rural health is in crisis) with currently 115 vacancies to be filled.

But once again the regions stand for themselves.

Leeton Mayor Paul Maytom and general manager Jackie Kruger are proactive.

Just this week they met with the University of Wollongong rural doctors program, lobbying to attract doctors and medical students, actively selling their town.

In return students are offered either rent-free or heavily subsidised housing.

They are now looking to actively track the students who have served their community and subsequently graduated to become GPs in a bid to ask them to consider their town, and their community.

This is but one overt example of people in the regions looking to help themselves.

Strength in a town or regional city's local leaders is often key to their success, and it is admirable even local government is on the front foot seeking solutions to what is essentially a state government failing - our health services.

With the state election rushing at us it would be foolish to underestimate just how important health is to regional constituents.

There are many issues on which regional NSW feels it has been short-changed, be it health, water, roads, access to education services or general policing.

The government must not forget that expecting the regions to fend for themselves will create a growing independence.

Government, which has sold much of the infrastructure and privatised the institutions that once gave it power over pricing of core commodities, could do well to ensure it remains relevant to its regions.  

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