It's fair to say that the people of regional, rural and remote NSW are on high alert as the COVID-19 pandemic presents new challenges yet again.
A state-wide lockdown has commenced and communities are grappling with what this means in terms of access to essential supplies and services, keeping businesses afloat and families' food on the table, in already strained circumstances.
Access to healthcare in regional and rural NSW is already difficult, as the CWA of NSW has been advocating on for some time now.
Last year we surveyed our members and overwhelmingly heard about long wait times to see general practitioners, lack of nurses and health professionals, and ill-equipped hospitals servicing large areas of the regions.
We've put forward many recommendations to the NSW government.
Most recently we made a submission to the ongoing inquiry into Health Outcomes and Access to Health and Hospital Services in Rural, Regional and Remote NSW, in relation to funding, staff and resourcing, and costs to patients.
Medical professional organisations, community leaders in rural and regional areas, and groups like the CWA of NSW have been expressing grave concerns with the ability of the regional health system to handle significant COVID-19 case numbers, since the early days of the pandemic.
Many areas of the regional health system are already so stretched for resources, a severe COVID-19 outbreak is not something that many regional Local Health Districts can currently handle.
We are disappointed to be in the position where it's been over 12 months since the initial COVID-19 response and there still does not seem to be a strategy for these vulnerable communities, or for the regions at all.
Our communities are subject to snap lockdowns and responding to outbreaks when they are occurring.
Sewerage detection puts areas on high alert - and then what?
A lack of strategy is creating unnecessary levels of angst.
If access to GPs in many rural, regional and remote areas is strained, we can imagine accessing vaccines is going to present significant challenges for these communities.
We welcome the approach to some of the far western indigenous communities and pop-up vaccine clinics.
We need more of these sort of tailored responses, in more areas, and we need them fast.
We need a state-wide strategy to guide the regions out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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