The news that Maitland Hospital's emergency department has the longest waiting time of any at hospitals in the district is concerning, but sadly not surprising, according to Member for Cessnock Clayton Barr. Bureau of Health Information figures show that from July to September this year, patients who attended Maitland Hospital's emergency department experienced the longest wait times of any at hospitals in the Hunter New England Local Health District - with one in 10 waiting almost nine hours. Mr Barr said cutbacks to the level of service at Cessnock and Kurri Kurri hospitals have put extra pressure on Maitland, which is also one of the fastest-growing cities in Australia. "The statistics and figures for Maitland Emergency Department are concerning but to be fair to that hospital and HNEH, this government has cut up to 20 percent out of the health budget, in real terms, over the past 10 years," Mr Barr said. "Budget increases are too small to keep up with inflation, so health care is going backwards. "The volume of patients at Maitland Emergency is increasingly dramatically because the level of care in emergency departments at nearby hospitals like Cessnock and Kurri Kurri is ever decreasing. "This is the madness of it all. Cutting back on an ED unit in one hospital doesn't make people stop having accidents or suffering ill-health, it just means that they have to go somewhere else to get their treatment. "In many cases, they land at Maitland ED." The future of the Kurri Kurri emergency department was recently subject to speculation that it is slated for closure when the new Maitland Hospital opens at Metford in 2022. The claim was made in an anonymous letter signed off by Kurri Kurri Hospital staff and circulated in the community in October. Hunter New England Health has repeatedly denied that the hospital will close, and says no decision has been made about transitioning services from Kurri Kurri to the new Maitland Hospital. Mr Barr urged Hunter New England Health to better resource the Kurri Kurri emergency department in order to take the pressure off Maitland, and "actively encourage" patients with less serious ailments to go to Kurri Kurri instead. "If Kurri Kurri could service an extra 50-100 patients a day, patients that need lower level care, this would make a massive difference to Maitland ED," he said. "But for this to happen, HNEH have to prioritise it and health across NSW has to be properly funded, not having their funding cut year after year." Member for Maitland Jenny Aitchison is calling on Lower Hunter residents share their experiences about Maitland Hospital's emergency department with the NSW Parliament's Rural Health Inquiry, which closes its public feedback period this Sunday. Ms Aitchison said figures released by the Bureau of Health Information reveal a "worsening, systemic healthcare crisis" in the region. These figures show that from July to September patients who attended Maitland Hospital's emergency department experienced the longest wait times of any at hospitals in the Hunter New England Local Health District. "One in 10 patients who attended the Maitland ED waited almost nine hours, which was over an hour than the next-longest wait at the John Hunter Hospital," Ms Aitchison said. "These are people who have come to their local hospital seeking emergency help. They are in an acute state of concern, illness or pain. But, due to the Berejiklian Government's chronic under-funding and mismanagement of our public health system, there's been no way for our hard-working nurses and doctors to see them more quickly." More than 40 per cent of patients presenting to Maitland Hospital's emergency department spent more than four hours waiting to be seen in the ED. "These Bureau of Health Information figures show that Maitland people are experiencing the longest emergency department wait times in the Hunter New England health district across all three metrics," Ms Aitchison said. The NSW public health system is also straining under the waitlist for elective surgery, with BHI figures showing that, between July and September, more than 95,000 patients across the state were awaiting the call for their life-changing surgery. "Year on year we've had an increase of 11.8 per cent of people waiting in our emergency departments," Ms Aitchison said. "These figures are the result of a decade of neglect and under-resourcing from the NSW Government. It's got to stop. Health outcomes should not be determined by postcodes - it's about equality, fairness and a fundamental right to healthcare." Labor's Shadow Minister for Rural Health Kate Washington urged anyone with concerns about their treatment in the healthcare system to make a submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry. "Submissions to the Parliamentary inquiry close on 13 December, so there is still time to raise your voice and share your story," Ms Washington said. To make a submission to the inquiry, visit parliament.nsw.gov.au.