BATHURST is operating with 53 fewer medical practitioners than it should have, a parliamentary inquiry into health has been told.
Bathurst Regional Council's director of Environmental, Planning and Building Services, Neil Southorn, revealed that and other startling figures at a hearing on Tuesday, speaking alongside councillor Warren Aubin and representatives of Dubbo Regional Council and Warrumbungle Shire Council.
Referring to the Federal Government Department of Health's health workforce data from 2019, Mr Southorn said Bathurst had 32.3 medical practitioners per 10,000 head of population, compared to the NSW benchmark of 44.6.
Other regional cities have much better levels of service.
"I've got no problem with Orange having the right level of service, it's the distribution of that service; [Orange has] 77.7 medical practitioners per 10,000 head of population," Mr Southorn said.
"If you translate that to the population of the local government area, rather than per 10,000, Bathurst is minus 53 medical practitioners for the population NSW benchmark. Orange is plus 141, Dubbo plus four, so on benchmark.
"... We all have a lot of sympathy and we worry about our more remote and smaller colleagues in local government in NSW, but this is Bathurst, a premier regional city and still not anywhere near NSW benchmark."
There is a need to increase the number of medical practitioners in Bathurst, not only for health reasons, but for economic ones as well.
"If those 53 medical practitioners were in Bathurst, to bring it up to NSW benchmark, that would create 94 direct jobs using the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research methodology, and that would have an economic impact of $8.7 million every year," Mr Southorn said.
"There's a jobs multiplier because every one of those professional positions brings a ripple effect through the local economy, through the NSW economy, through the national economy, and that would create 137 additional indirect jobs.
"It's not just the human side of these issues, it goes to the economic welfare of the community as well."
Cr Aubin identified specific shortfalls of the health system in Bathurst, saying the city was in "dire need" of respiratory medicine, cardiac, maternity, obstetrics and gynaecology services, and a 24/7 orthopaedic service.
"Council, we bring a heap of events to the city in Bathurst and we have five international motor racing meetings per year, plus every other weekend there is a sporting competition going on," he said.
"We don't have orthopaedic services in the hospital on a weekend, so anyone that has a minor ailment that presents to ED (Emergency department) in Bathurst is straight away sent to Orange and it is just not on."
Like Mr Southorn, Cr Aubin stressed the economic fallout that could come from inadequate health services.
"If the reputation of Bathurst as an attractive town in which to live is damaged because of inadequate health care, the city will not attract new industry or business, and these downstream effects will leave it in economic decline," he said.
Similar comments were made about Wellington, with Dubbo mayor Ben Shields saying families would have "a different attitude" about moving to Wellington if they found out the town was lacking in medical services.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the council representatives were told the panel could give them questions on notice to obtain more information about health concerns in those communities.
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