The outcry for adequate health services in the Eurobodalla shire continues and the community is getting ready to make even more noise.
A petition calling for a tier four service to be operating by 2023 in the shire was presented to federal MPs at Moruya on Wednesday, November 3.
The ONE New Eurobodalla Hospital advocacy group gathered 3475 signatures.
It was the second petition to be presented to the government. The first was presented in 2018, calling for a new level 4 hospital which was later announced by the NSW Government that same year.
On Wednesday, campaigners and representatives of the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association and Health Services Union met with NSW Shadow Minister for Health and Keira MP Ryan Park, Gilmore MP Fiona Phillips and Eden-Monaro MP Kristy McBain to present the petition.
The Labor leaders agreed there was a "serious gap" in health services in the Eurobodalla shire and pledged to lobby for level 4 services.
The community was most concerned the NSW Government's current hospital proposal would be inadequate to meet the demand or predicted population growth of the region.
The community has also been outraged over changes to the Clinical Services Plan which helps determine the requirements for a new hospital.
Campaign advocate and obstetrician Dr Michael Holland said the main upset for medical staff was the reduction of maternity, pediatric and neonatal beds.
"The current services are critically threatened to be able to provide safe services," Dr Holland said.
A message of the petition was that services needed to be improved now.
Speaking at the petition event, NSWNMA organiser Pippa Watts said many locals were concerned the new build, earmarked for a greenfield site in south Moruya, would result in the downgrading of health services after Batemans Bay and Moruya hospitals close.
She said the association had raised concerns over staffing with local members.
"Community consultation on this project has been drawn out and there's a lot of angst among health staff about job security, given we're seeing two public hospitals being consolidated into a single site," she said.
She felt the needs of rural and regional public hospitals had been neglected, year after year.
"Investment in health infrastructure is important, but those bricks and mortar are of little use to the community without enough highly-skilled health staff keeping the hospital doors open," she said.
"We note the new premier's acknowledgement of this and would welcome further discussions.
"We support ONE group's petition and calls for an urgent review of health services and the staffing profile being planned for the new hospital.
"A better outcome for the Eurobodalla would be the implementation of nurse-to-patient ratios at the new facility."
At the petition event, Kerri Richards and Catherine Hurst shared their harrowing experiences, travelling for treatment and specialist services when times were dire.
They both formally handed the petition to the MPs.
Mr Park said shire residents deserved to have access to the same services as people in other major centres.
The Eurobodalla shire has the second largest population for the area covered by the Southern NSW Local Health District and one of the highest proportions of older residents in NSW.
The maternity service has the largest number of presentations of births for a rural maternity service in Southern NSW.
Despite this, Mr Park said the new hospital would open with a reduction in maternity, neonatal and paediatric beds, no inpatient mental health services or intensive care unit.
However, Bega MP Andrew Constance responded on Facebook, reassuring that an intensive care unit was in the plans.
"It's in the plan for the hospital and was always part of it," he said.
He said clinical service planning and master planning was still being refined by the clinical experts.
"I'm working on ensuring that the MRI room is provided for and the maternity plus emergency department are future-proofed with even greater capacity," he said on his Facebook page.
"Both the Minister and the Premier's office are aware."
Planning of the hospital design has continued since its location at Moruya was announced in December 2020.
The final business plan for the new hospital was set to be approved by mid-December.
However, the community fears the new facility will not be fit for capacity or function.
"We are reaching a critical point of no return," Dr Holland said.
"The clinical services plan does not fulfill the needs for our community."
The Eurobodalla Health Service currently provides level 3 services. The Clinical Services Plan has projected to reach the goal of level 4 services by 2031.
"Open the door with level 4", will be the biggest placard on the day, says Dr Holland.
Campaigners want to see more procedural GPs and specialists "fill the gaps" now, not in what could be, 10-years time.
The NSW Government committed $200 million to the development of the hospital and promised work would begin within the term of the current NSW Government, which ends in 2023.