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Labor says Bega by-election result contain a warning about the state's rural health crisis

Dr Michael Holland says the Bega by-election result is a warning to the Perrottet Government it faces a backlash over the regional health care crisis. (ABC News: Kelly Fuller)

As Labor claims a historic win in Bega, it says the result is a microcosm for the anger and despair in regional communities over the crisis in rural health.

"The community is angry, disappointed and in many ways they feel powerless to do anything," said Bega member-elect Dr Michael Holland.

The medical practitioner with 40 years' experience ran a campaign for the Labor party in the traditionally Liberal seat, responding to the problems with the local health service.

Dr Holland had spent the previous two years raising concerns about the facilities and the need for a new hospital in the South Coast-based seat.

In October 2020, he lodged a submission with the state's rural, regional and remote services parliamentary inquiry making a case for the new service at Eurobodalla.

In November, the obstetrician resigned from the Southern NSW Local Health District arguing that a review into maternity services at Moruya Hospital had not addressed alleged "unsafe" practices.

"I have worked in other places outside far south NSW, in Bega, Bathurst and Orange. It's the worst that I have ever seen in the 40 years of my career."

When the state's four by-elections were called Labor's Shadow Health Minister, Ryan Park, reached out and encouraged Dr Holland to run for the party.

"Having someone with medical knowledge and medical understanding is a way to navigate the way to improve the services," Dr Holland said.

Health key concern for voters

Many at polling booths in Bega on Saturday identified local health concerns as their main reason for supporting Labor and expressed their support for the doctor and his push to improve services.

On Saturday night Dr Holland claimed victory in the seat previously held by high profile Liberal minister Andrew Constance with a 13 per cent swing.

He said the result contains a warning for the Perrottet government for the 2023 election about the rural health concerns held across the state.

"If I have one role to fulfil in parliament besides my local representation, it would be to look at the problems we have in rural NSW. What we experience on the south coast is a microcosm for that," he said.

Constance agrees health key reason for result

Reflecting on the loss of his former seat as he steps down to run in the surrounding federal electorate of Gilmore for the Liberal party, Andrew Constance agreed the result was all about local health concerns.

Outgoing Bega MP Andrew Constance says health has been the major voting factor

"No doubt it's a very big swing," he said.

Only last week after a year-long state parliamentary inquiry that has heard damning evidence about the standard of care, NSW Health was forced to apologise.

"To these people and their families, we sincerely apologise for experiences that did not meet the highest standards of healthcare that we expect in this state." Heath Deputy Dr Nigel Lions told a hearing.

After hearing months of evidence, the inquiry's final report is due to be tabled at the end of April.

'Wake up call'

The Labor leader Chis Minns echoed the warning from his Bega candidate.

"First thing we need to do is listen to our front-line practitioners who have been raising alarm bells about the state of health care particularly public health care in regional NSW, for years and years and have been essentially ignored by the government."

Labor likely to target other regional seats

The result in Bega has also fuelled Labor's focus on other regional seats.

The party is likely to take a more targeted approach to other coalition seats including Tweed, Monaro, Goulburn and the South Coast – where local MP Shelley Hancock is expected to retire.

"Whether it is on an electoral pendulum, or a commentator says the seat is safe or not it doesn't matter anymore. You have to deliver for your community. You have to listen to your community to be a good government." Mr Minns said.

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