There has, for some time locally, been an undertone of concern that our redeveloped hospital in Inverell, will not be matched by an adequate number of qualified health professionals, ready and able to take us into the future.
I have recently become aware that our wonderful new and modern facility - due to be opened in the next eight to nine months - may not be functional!
There may not be sufficient local doctors ready to work in the hospital system, as it now stands.
Worse still, the problem could be exacerbated by a lack of available anaesthetists and properly qualified operating theatre staff, especially for such functions as emergency operations.
This may even be the case already.
Additionally, some patients are unable to be treated by their own doctors, while in hospital, due to the fact that their doctors do not work in the hospital system. I am one of them.
I also suspect that a further problem relating to hospital functionality, will be a general shortage of nursing and support staff. In fact it probably already exists.
These suspicions are based on a number of personal hospitalisations during the last six months.
I have the highest regard for the efforts of the local nursing staff - but I worry about the pressure under which they work.
At Inverell, for far too long, we have battled an ingrained health culture, designed to make us totally dependent on the hospitals at Armidale and Tamworth (even John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle) for our medical survival. Minor problems demand transfer to one or more of these hospitals.
It is currently necessary for local patients to endure a three-hour return trip by road to Armidale - even to have an urgently needed CT Scan, out of hours.
Thankfully that need will disappear with the emergence of the new hospital.
The new hospital at Inverell is going to be catering for a local population of about 13,000 and a local government area of about 17,000.
The new hospital has (eventually) been designed and is being equipped to cater for these numbers (into the future) - but must have sufficient properly qualified staff to successfully provide the required services.
I am prepared to accept that many regional areas in NSW - let alone Australia - are probably struggling with similar problems.
I also accept that state and national health budgets are undoubtedly stretched to their limits.
Such a situation demands that the state and federal governments be urgently advised of the circumstances. Hunter New England Health shares that responsibility.
I now intend to write to the general manager of our local council to make him aware of my concerns.
I will ask him to advise his council of these concerns at its next meeting on October 23.
I hope that the council will resolve to urgently ask the NSW Minister for Health (through our local member Adam Marshall) to investigate these concerns.
Hopefully, that would lead to an assurance that our new hospital will indeed be functional and that adequate medical and support staff, including a sufficient allocation of hours, will be available to make that possible.