NSW Labor has initiated a welcome parliamentary inquiry into the state of rural and regional healthcare.
The inquiry announcement follows more media reports of under-resourcing, lack of doctors and systemic failures in NSW regional hospitals.
On Sunday's 60 Minutes, Liz Hayes did a moving story on the tragic death of her father who was never given the vital anti-stroke medication he took for a heart condition during his eight-day stay in a mid-North Coast private hospital.
There were also reports that thousands of test results were never followed up at a Dubbo Hospital last year. A doctor who worked at the hospital alleges these led to the prescription of wrong medications, missed broken bones and the death of a baby.
Last year, ABC's Four Corners shared the stories of patients who had died or suffered significant disability as a result of the care they received at their regional hospital. These injuries - and deaths - were preventable.
As a regional NSW-based health lawyer, I see too many of these stories - and countless reports - which show the need for government action to correct disproportionate funding and health outcomes for people in regional NSW.
There are too many negligence cases and inquests involving avoidable death and serious injury.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows that the rate of potentially avoidable death increases from 94 per 100,000 people in the major cities to 129 in regional areas.
People living in rural and remote areas have higher rates of hospitalisations, disease, mortality, injury and poorer access to, and use of, health services, compared with those living in metropolitan areas. The reality for many is travelling considerable distances to access medical treatment.
Liz Hayes was shocked to learn that the private hospital had just one doctor with a doctor on call after hours. This won't surprise those of us who live in regional NSW where there are few doctors and fewer specialists.
Governments - state and federal - need a properly funded, data based strategy to improve rural healthcare.
There needs to be more public data to monitor performance. The National Health Performance Authority still refuses to release national data on death rates and adverse events in hospitals.
In the US and England, this information is publicly available - by postcode.
Lawyers and journalists play a crucial role in exposing systemic problems in healthcare but it is up to governments to act to prevent unnecessary deaths.
If we have to have an inquiry to get action, bring it on.