More patients in the Tamworth region are finding themselves transferred out to larger, metropolitan hospitals, due to a lack of resources at home.
But if they're sent to Newcastle they could find a hospital "at risk of collapse".
That's according to new statistics shared by the ambulance union, showing a trend of increasing patient transfers by road ambulance has been driven primarily by a lack of resources at hospitals like Tamworth.
The Australian Paramedics Association (APA) told a recent NSW parliamentary inquiry there had been a 10 per cent increase in patient transports from the Tamworth and Gunnedah region in just one year.
"The Moree and Narrabri region experienced a 17.4 per cent increase, from 672 transports to 789 transports," the submission said.
The statistics cover October-December 2019. Transfers are up compared to the same period a year earlier.
A survey of parademics conducted by the union showed the most common reason for a transfer was a lack of resources at the smaller rural hospital, the submission said.
Most patients transferred from our region by road ambulance end up in Newcastle's John Hunter Hospital, which contains the state's busiest trauma unit.
But the giant hospital is "strained and at risk of collapse", the parliamentary committee has heard, in a separate submission made by a staff member on behalf of hospital staff.
The submission by a staff member in the name of John Hunter Hospital Hunter New England Health told the parliamentary inquiry the hospital is "frequently" unable to perform its "regional role" to aid patients from outside Newcastle.
Over a quarter of John Hunter trauma patients were transferred from a rural referral hospital like Tamworth hospital after suffering a medical crisis in a rural area, according to the submission.
But due to a "lack of adequate intensive care unit capacity, John Hunter Hospital frequently cannot fulfill its regional role," the submission said.
"This means that rural patients from our region need to be transferred to Sydney bypassing John Hunter Hospital, which results in further delays, use of more resources and causes more inconvenience to families."
Despite the strain, John Hunter Hospital has the state's lowest case fatality rate - the ratio of deaths to patients presenting at the hospital - the submission said.
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson said he acknowledged the issues raised at the inquiry into health outcomes for rural, regional and remote NSW.
"This is why I have been pushing hard to continually improve our health services and infrastructure," he said.
"I want to see as many of our residents as possible treated in their home town. I will continue to push for improvements in local health infrastructure so that we are not dependent on services provided elsewhere."
John Hunter treated 715 severely injured trauma patients in 2019/2020 - the largest volume of patients in NSW.
Hunter New England Health was contacted for comment on this story, but declined the opportunity to do so.
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