NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner chose Lismore as the site for the 7 November 2014 launch of the NSW Rural Health Plan – Towards 2021, perhaps to honour the contribution of well-known local surgeon, Assoc Prof Austin Curtin, who co-chairs the 22-member Ministerial Advisory Committee for Rural Health (which also includes Lismore Base Hospital’s manager of medical imaging, Denys Wynn).

The report identifies three key “Directions” – Healthy rural communities, Access to high quality care of rural populations, and Integrated rural heath services, and describes three “Strategies” for achieving them: Enhance the rural health workforce, Strengthen rural health infrastructure, research and innovation, and Improve rural eHealth.

“We want to make sure people in rural areas can access the right care, in the right place, at the right time,” the Minister said.

“However, more can be done to ensure patients in the country are afforded first-class care in first-class facilities… the NSW Rural Health Plan is a further important step in this process.”

The Minister noted that country patients can now obtain 85 per cent of their health care within their Local Health District (there are seven in the state), singling out the enhancement of cancer services which enables patients to be cared for closer to home.

Other advances include pain management and community-based palliative care services.

At the launch at the University Centre for Rural Health, Minister Skinner was accompanied by coalition colleagues Troy Grant, the recently appointed Deputy Premier, Parliamentary Secretary for Regional & Rural Health, Melinda Pavey and Lismore MP, Thomas George.

The current $80.25M redevelopment of Lismore Base Hospital, the upgrade of Murwillumbah Hospital ED, and the planned Bonalbo MPS projects were cited as examples of the NSW Government’s commitment to health service enhancement in the Northern Rivers.