Those who attended the public meeting with Federal Shadow Health Minister Catherine King on Monday have mixed feelings about how it went.
Most felt that they were listened to and that their concerns would be taken into account in future policy developments. However, as Carol Manning put it, “I don’t know that we achieved that much.”
Carol spoke to Catherine King about the need for more specialist consultants to travel to Tumut, or be based in Tumut, as we have the base to support them.
“It doesn’t matter to me personally because I’m in a private fund, but I know a lot of people who aren’t well who are travelling to Wagga or Canberra to see a consultant,” she said.
“Sometimes they’re sent back; it turns out the specialist doesn’t have time to see them. Sometimes when they’re not well they’re going out there for a ten minute visit. We desperately need this hospital, but whether or not it’s going to happen is another thing. Did we really get any further? I’m not sure.”
Tina Billing, Batlow resident and CWA Hume Group Representative, said she hopes politicians continue consulting more closely with communities.
“I was amazed at the roll-up; the attendance,” she said.
“I think they need much more consultation and probably they’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg with what they were able to hear in that time.
“Tumut’s about to explode with new possibilities, with Snowy Hydro, with Visy, and we’re so far behind the 8 Ball now with medical services, are we going to catch up and move forward? That’s a huge concern with a lot of people that I’ve spoken to.
“We’ve got an ageing population where we’re attracting people coming through for retirement, so we do need more facilities. Especially Batlow; their MPS doesn’t even have an X-Ray, which is just awful.”
Tina’s partner, Ray Billing, spoke at the meeting, and summed up the state of healthcare in the bush state-wide.
“A lot of these areas, they are critical to the infrastructure of Australia,” he said.
“There are primary producers working here who put in so many more hours per day compared to people generally working in city areas, that their value in terms of work hours to the community as a whole, is enormous. I don’t think they’re getting their fair share of medical services to support them.
“State and federal governments need to say, okay, rural decline is happening, but why is it happening? It’s not just happening because people don’t want to live here. Why don’t they want to live here? In many cases, you go down to Sydney and they’ll say, because you can’t get into a doctor. You can’t get medical services.
“We need to decentralise. If you look at some of our larger cities now, you can’t tell me that the cost of keeping someone in the city per person is less than keeping them in a country area. I think that the health system needs to be looked at as part of the package for decentralising, as well as for regional communities that are critical to the functioning of Australia.”
Nick Browning felt the meeting was “fruitful.”
“I think all questions were answered well – there was never any attempt to avoid answering the questions, which was appreciated,” he said.
“I am quite hopeful that something will come out of it, they seemed very intent on listening to communities. Too often decisions are made without consultation, and with consultation you’d expect better and more informed policy to evolve.”