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MEDIA RELEASE: RARMS Working With Remote Councils to Save Our Local Hospitals

RARMS CEO, Mark Burdack, today reassured rural and remote communities in NSW that he is working closely with local councils to save our 24/7 emergency departments and health services in rural and remote areas.

"We want to reassure all our patients and communities that RARMS will do everything we can in collaboration with your local councils to ensure the NSW Government guarantees access to on-site 24/7 primary care and emergency care in our communities now and in the future" said Mr Burdack.

"Let me be very clear - RARMS does not support the replacement of local on-site 24/7 rural GPs with Telehealth for emergencies.

"Telehealth has an important role to play in managing low acuity and minor presentations in local EDs and managing doctor fatigue, but a real doctor must be in our communities at all times so that they can treat a patient with a heart attack, manage internal bleeding, deliver a premature baby or deal with a serious harvesting accident.

"I know there is a lot of fear in our communities surrounding reports about the reduction of on-site doctors in our local emergency departments in other towns and their replacement with Telehealth.

"The recent death of Dawn Trivett in Gulgong under the care of a Telehealth doctor in Switzerland has elevated those concerns.

"When the Western NSW Local Health District (LHD) advised RARMS over a year ago that it planned to establish a hub and spoke model of emergency care, with doctors only available part time in some communities, RARMS told the LHD that this would cost lives and lead to the decline of healthcare in highly vulnerable communities.

"RARMS Board and staff comprise leading experts in rural health, rural medical workforce, general practice, Aboriginal health, health informatics and regional economic development. It has been extraordinarily disappointing that our expert advice was ignored.

"Our disappointment in the NSW Government deepened following meetings over the course of this week with our local councils who advised that there was no consultation with local councils at all about introducing Telehealth as a substitute for on-site doctors.

"Consultation with local communities is a core responsibility under the Health Services Act 1997.

"The fact that this did not occur reinforces criticisms raised by the NSW Auditor General in its 2019 report on Local Health District Governance about the quality of community engagement.

RARMS CEO Mark Burdack and Chair, Richard Anicich AM, met earlier this year with the NSW Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard, to raise RARMS' serious concerns about the plans of the Western NSW Local Health District.

"RARMS' commitment has, and will, lie with our 22,000 patients in rural and remote NSW.

"We understand that governments need to find savings in health, but we do not agree that the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities in the country should once again bear a disproportionate share of the responsibility to make up funding shortfalls" said Mr Burdack.

RARMS is an Australian Charity established in 2001 to deliver health and hospital services in rural and remote NSW communities. It currently treats more than 22,000 active patients across 10 of NSW's most vulnerable lower socioeconomic communities. More than a quarter of its patients are Aboriginal. Remote communities typically have a greater need for on-site medical care due to high rates of chronic disease, high rates of avoidable hospitalisation, poor access to health care and high rates of mortality, particularly among children.



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