TAMWORTH is seen as a health hub for the New England region, but hundreds of locals are still travelling to Sydney for specialist appointments and treatment.
It can come a significant cost for travelling to the city and finding ad hoc accommodation on top of the stress of dealing with a diagnosis.
Representatives from a not-for-profit operation travelled through Tamworth and Armidale this week offering help for isolated patients in the region.
Sonia Fingleton, from Chisholm Cottage, an accommodation house set up for patients and families, said the organisation had more capacity to help people from the region travelling for care.
“It’s had over 70 per cent occupancy, we know there’s a need and we know it needs to grow,” Ms Fingleton said.
“If more people know about it that more successful it is, we will expand to meet the demand.”
Ms Fingleton said the Chisholm accommodation charge could be mostly reclaimed through the NSW Health Isolated Patients’ Transport and Accommodation Scheme.
While it’s an ostensibly free service, she said there needed to be more awareness of its existence.
She met with representatives from the local Country Women’s Association and Rotary clubs, Kevin Anderson’s office, community health and hospital social workers to spread the word.
“The reason for our visit is to ensure that people in need know that we exist,” she said.
“Those people in need are people who are coming to Sydney for medical treatment and going into hospital.
“Because of the drought we understand just what hard a time it can be for a lot of country people and we want them to know we’re down there to help them when they come.”
In the last year alone, Chisolm Cottage hosted 52 guests from Tamworth and 15 from Armidale.
“We’ve told people, but we need to tell more people,” Ms Fingleton said.
“Those who know about it keep coming back.
“When you run a hotel you want it to be really fine so people keep coming back as return guests.
“But when you run an accommodation house for people who are unwell, people who are having tests, going into hospital, when you say goodbye to them, you hope that you don’t have to see them again.”
This was complemented by the Country Care Link service which provided people with free transportation from airports and train stations around the city for health appointments. It gave 101 trips to Tamworth visitors and 79 to people from Armidale as part of 488 rides for folks from the Hunter New England Health district.
Coordinator Sister Jan O’Grady hoped people would keep the knowledge of the services in their back of their minds.
“We’ve found social workers move on and don’t always leave the information behind,” she said.
“It’s been going for about 25 years and this provides volunteer drivers who use their own cars to meet people at the airport or railway. “The drivers meet them and take them to their appointment or to where they are staying.”