The Hunter is ably served by significant health resources. As well as the John Hunter Hospital, private facilities are spread from Maitland to Lake Macquarie. The Hunter Medical Research Institute and the University of Newcastle put the region on the front foot when it comes to innovation.
When it comes to Maitland's new hospital, the debate has centred on its operating model rather than whether it is adequate to simply provide the treatment required.
In this, the region is lucky. That is not to say that improvement is impossible, just that gratitude is well placed.
Tea Gardens' Geoff Crockett is a prime example of how distance from the kinds of facilities in Newcastle and the broader Hunter New England Health network can play havoc with lives.
Mr Crockett tells of his weekday drive to Newcastle for two months as he received prostate cancer treatment.
"I was warned that about half way through my treatment I would become really, really tired," Mr Crockett said.
"And I did. I am also a farmer from out western NSW, and if you had to drive 200 or 300 kilometres after that treatment each day, I can tell you it would not take much to have an accident or plough into a kangaroo."
These concerns are real and, as associate professor and radiation oncologist Peter O'Brien says, can lead patients to decide it is simply too difficult to pursue critical treatment that could extend or improve their lives. Dr O'Brien cites studies indicating that cancer patients in regional areas are 35 per cent more likely to die within five years than those being treated in metropolitan areas.
It would be wrong to read these figures as a criticism of those who work in regional or rural healthcare. Their tireless efforts are often hidden behind lengthy waiting times and other flaws in a bureaucracy that must, at some stage, deal with almost every one of us on some of the most difficult days of our lives. It is their hard work, and in many cases their advocacy for their communities that goes unrecognised, that delivers the outcomes and the equipment that patients only learn about when they need it.
Without campaigns like Radiation Therapy for Regional Australia, and without patients willing to share their struggles like Mr Crockett, the symptoms in regional and remote areas less blessed than the Hunter are unlikely to abate.