Having secured more than 10,000 signatures from right across the region, a jubilant Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall has tabled the rural health services petition in State Parliament.
The electorate-wide community petition calls on the NSW Parliament to split the Hunter New England Health District, directly employ doctors in rural hospitals and dramatically increase nursing numbers.
More than 10,000 signatures have been collected on the petition, with Mr Marshall saying hundreds more are rolling in each day.
"The response from the community has been overwhelming and demonstrates just how important the issue of quality health services is for people of all ages across our region," Mr Marshall said.
"I wish to thank every single one of the more than 10,000 people who have put pen to paper on this petition so far - you are helping to create the change we need."
Initially developed by Armidale think-tank New England Visions 2030, the document calls for the state government to split up the Hunter New England health district, which stretches from Newcastle to Tenterfield.
The MP said he decided to table the petition earlier than anticipated, after it passed the required 10,000 signatures and to ensure there was plenty of time to debate it on the floor of Parliament before the end of the year, which is expected to happen in October.
The plan had been to table it on September 30.
Under its rules, NSW Parliament must hold a formal debate on any petition with more than 10,000 signatures. But Mr Marshall has encouraged people to keep signing.
"Every signature is still hugely important though and I'm urging people who haven't shown their support already, to make sure they sign it over the coming fortnight - your signature still counts and will add much weight to the push for reform and change in the way health services are delivered in our region," Mr Marshall said.
"The groundswell of dissent clearly demonstrates to the government that this is a burning issue for many in our region and that we won't rest until we are heard and changes made."
He said the revelation that the region has had no obstetrics cover since Friday was another example of something seriously wrong which must be rectified.
"The momentum is building and I am confident that with good old fashioned 'people-power' we can save our rural health system and support and bolster our had-working local health staff."
The petition followed a unanimous vote by every mayor in the New England calling for an investigation of the idea of a breakup. Representatives of the membership of the National Party voted to adopt the idea as policy, in June.
The petition is still available in most local council administration centres and local businesses in every town across the region. It can also be signed in the MP's office at Moree and Armidale.
Copies of the petition can also be posted or emailed, and you can request that by calling the Electorate office on 6772 5552.
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