Country doctor Aniello Iannuzzi — who has worked as a GP in Coonabarabran for more than two decades — said he had watched rural health services be wound back.

“You’ve got this vicious cycle of patients who can’t get access, who can’t afford access and lack of skilled clinicians and an increasingly difficult situation in terms of recruiting and retaining skilled clinicians,” he said.

“It’s a world of hurt”.

Federal Department of Health figures show there are more than 72,000 doctors servicing major cities around Australia — less than a third of that number are working in regional and remote areas.

Dr Iannuzzi said the issue had been compounded by long hours, poor conditions and a five-year freeze on remuneration for permanent doctors who work in country hospitals.

Dr Iannuzzi said problems with regional healthcare could also be caused by one-size-fits-all policies that do not cater to the bespoke needs of patients in the bush.

“I think health departments in general have to understand that the rules they put in place in bigger centres don’t apply and can’t apply in smaller centres,” he said.

“Too often we’re getting told policies that we’ve had absolutely no say in formulating

ABC Interview with Dr Iannuzzi