A local woman "tragically" died without seeing a doctor at a New England hospital, and the local MP claims it is partly because the Queensland border lockdown has made it more difficult to secure locum doctors.
Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall has told NSW Parliament he learned in September the Glen Innes hospital would not be booking a single doctor for a weekend shift for six weeks.
A month earlier, on Saturday, August 29, "the vulnerabilities of not having a doctor on staff were tragically made apparent", he said.
A "local woman" struck down by an aneurysm presented to the Glen Innes hospital.
Nurses provided her medical care, but no doctor was on duty, the MP told parliament. The Westpac helicopter was tasked to fly the patient to Tamworth hospital.
"Tragically, she passed away after her arrival in Tamworth," Mr Marshall said.
Hunter New England Health (HNEH) Executive Director for Rural and Regional Health Services Susan Heyman said that the woman's critical condition would have required transfer to a larger hospital for specialist care, even if a medical officer was on site.
The doctor rostered to provide medical coverage that evening became unwell, and it wasn't possible to secure a replacement at short notice, she said in a statement to the Leader.
"I offer my sincere condolences to the family following the death of a critically ill patient who presented to Glen Innes Hospital in August this year. We have been in regular contact with the family and continue to provide support to them and our staff, during this time," she said.
The coroner will now investigate the circumstances surrounding the the woman's death.
Mr Marshall told NSW parliament the struggle to find locums had been made more difficult by Queensland's hard border lockdown.
"It is understood that many health districts in the north of the state have been impacted by Queensland's COVID-19 hard border restrictions, with many doctors from Queensland who previously filled vacancies at hospitals in Northern NSW unwilling to or prevented from travel into the state at this volatile time," he said.
Ms Heyman confirmed that "the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent border closures has also made it increasingly challenging to secure locum medical officers".
Mr Marshall said he discovered on September 24 - almost a month after the patient's death - that hospital staff had been told there wasn't a weekend doctor booked for six weeks.
"I was forced to write urgently to the Health Minister Brad Hazzard," Mr Marshall said
"In response to my representations, I was told that suddenly they had been able to fill most of those weekends and there would only be two weekend shifts in October yet to be filled."
In September, he accused the Queensland state government of "rank hypocrisy" and playing political games with border communities.
The town was added to the Queensland border bubble that month.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.