A HUNTER-based health advocate has queried the omission of a Newcastle or Hunter hearing in a state inquiry into regional health.
Hunter-based lawyer and Australian Lawyers' Alliance NSW spokeswoman Catherine Henry said the decision made little sense as the first hearing of the NSW parliamentary inquiry began on Thursday in Deniliquin.
She said the facts Hunter New England was the state's largest health district, that the John Hunter Hospital and Maitland Hospital are among the most sued in the state and the region's rate of complaints to the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission highlighted a need to hear the region's stories.
"Many local people suffer avoidable death and injury because of preventable negligence, caused by under-resourcing, lack of staff and systemic failures," Ms Henry said.
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"Our region has a large population but still does not have the proportionate resources that Sydney health services receive.
"Patients experience delays to treatment, and many are being transferred to Sydney - which is not good enough."
"The Hunter's proximity to Sydney does not mean that it does not experience the same issues being faced by other regional, rural and remote communities."
The emergency department at the John Hunter Hospital is among the state's busiest, and the only major trauma centre beyond Sydney.
The Newcastle Herald reported a staff submission to the inquiry contended the hospital is struggling to keep up with the level of demand to the detriment of patients. The health district is expected to make a submission.
"Lawyers, journalists and health staff play a vital role in exposing systemic problems in health care but it is up to governments to act to prevent unnecessary deaths," she said. "It is one thing to have an inquiry but we need action afterwards - not another report that gathers dust."
"We need a properly funded, data based, strategy to improve rural and regional healthcare - and the Hunter is a vital part of that strategy."
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