Jannah Theme License is not validated, Go to the theme options page to validate the license, You need a single license for each domain name.

Rex Airlines route suspensions spark fears for health services in regional Australia

Sydney-based doctors who travel to treat patients in regional New South Wales are concerned Rex Airlines’ decision to cut flights will put more pressure on limited access to healthcare in the bush.

On Friday the regional carrier announced services would be reduced across the state and that the Sydney to Armidale route would be suspended until March 2024.

Rex has reduced its Sydney services from seven regional cities, including Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Parkes and Orange.

In a statement, the airline said it hoped the measures would be temporary.

Carsten Palme regularly travels to Port Macquarie and other regional centres as part of an outreach program with Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, a not-for-profit cancer hospital based in Sydney.

Carsten Palme (left) says patients long-distance travel can be physically and emotionally challenging for patients.(ABC News: Jack Ailwood)

Professor Palme said fewer flight options could lead to patients deferring referrals or treatment instead of driving to appointments in major cities.

“When you think about the distances that people have to drive – and then it’s the time away from work, their carers, their families – it’s a significant drain on patients,” he said.

“By delaying their care they’re actually going to cost us a lot more as a society when they present in later stages.”

A dark-haired man in a dark suit sits in an office and points at part of a plastic brain inside a prosthetic head.

Professor Marcus Stoodley says flight options have worsened in the 20 years he has run an outreach clinic in Coffs Harbour.(ABC News)

‘Not feasible’

For the past 20 years, neurosurgeon Marcus Stoodley has travelled to Coffs Harbour and other regional locations to provide specialist healthcare.

He said it used to be possible to fly in and out in one day, but that flexibility was gone.

Professor Stoodley said if the cuts ended up being permanent it could stop some specialists travelling to regional centres for good.

“If it’s taking three days out of the week because of the travel constraints, then it may be the specialist decides to stop,” he said.

“It’s not feasible to do that and so they’ll stop doing that clinic.”

A dark-haired man in a dark suit stands outside a shopfront and speaks to the media.

Matthew Dickerson says the limits to service could impact regional areas in a number of ways.(ABC News: Madeline Austin)

Matthew Dickerson, the chair of peak body Regional Cities New South Wales, said Rex acted as a “lifeline” for regional communities.

Cr Dickerson, who is also the Mayor of Dubbo, has also raised concerns about what the loss of flights means for access to important medical services for people living outside cities.

“It also goes the other way — it’s not just regional people that are going to Sydney for various activities, there are people that come out and provide services to regional locations” he said.

“We might have specialist doctors, or specialists in a certain field might be coming out to do some consultancy work, and that might change when they can come.”

A propeller plane on tarmac at dusk.

Rex is not the only carrier cutting domestic services.(Supplied: Rex)

‘Minimal options’

The latest announcement follows similar decisions in other states and from other airlines, including Virgin and Bonza.

The ABC has contacted Rex Airlines for comment.

In 2018, a Rex submission to a federal standing committee on regional air routes noted that low passenger numbers, airport costs and pilot shortages were all contributing to prices on regional routes.

Minister for Regional NSW Tara Moriarty said in a statement that access to air services was important for regional communities.

“We work closely with communities to understand their needs regarding transport access and assist communities that have minimal options,” she said.

The ABC has also contacted federal Transport and Regional Development Minister Catherine King for comment.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-09-23/rex-airlines-service-cuts-spark-healthcare-fears/102893276 Rex Airlines route suspensions spark fears for health services in regional Australia

Related Articles

Back to top button