Two very important points for our Sapphire Coast health services come out of the latest study released last week by the National Heart Foundation on the geography of cardiovascular disease (including heart attack and stroke).
In regional Australia, the rate of cardiovascular disease is a worrying one in every four.
In the cities, it’s only one in five.
If country people had the same lower heart disease rates as their city cousins, a massive 350,000 fewer Australian adults would have cardiovascular disease.
There are several reasons for our big regional disadvantage in heart health: the Foundation study shows we’re more likely than city people to be physically inactive; smokers, overweight or obese.
But our other very big regional disadvantage is ‘restricted access’ to health services – not enough doctors, hospitals, health screening, or bulk billing in the bush.
So the first point is, as we already have restricted health access and outcomes anyhow, why restrict it even more by trying to close down the emergency department at Pambula Hospital, an absolutely essential access for locals experiencing heart problems?
Especially for those low-income and pensioner people living in the southern half of the Bega Shire and lacking the resources and transport to get to Bega quickly?
The Heart Foundation study demonstrates very clearly that Pambula Hospital must continue to have an emergency department after the new South East Regional Hospital (SERH) becomes operational in Bega, from 2016 onward.
The second important point is that this National Heart Foundation study powerfully reinforces the essential requirement for the already-promised high-standard new stroke unit as a non-negotiable element of the extra health services to be provided at the new SERH hospital in Bega.