An exercise program Parkes' senior citizens regularly access and rely on for "their physical and psychological well-being" is set to be revised and could result in some members no longer being eligible to use.
Western NSW Local Health District informed its Healthy Lifestyles participants in a letter it will be reformatting the program at the Parkes Hospital this year and will "run in line" with a Physical Activity Groups for Adults program.
The change will involve groups following a structured, individualised program with set time frames and will target "high risk groups identified by the Western Area of Health".
It will also require those "who believe they still require the services supplied by the Healthy Lifestyles team" to be assessed to evaluate their suitability in the program.
Healthy Lifestyles member Bev Rowe said the move was insulting and was another devastating blow for people living in the bush.
A number of participants - who are aged between 60 years and 80 years and have been using the program four times a week to keep themselves fit for 17 years - now fear they will no longer be able to exercise at the hospital under the supervision of nurses and that no other facility will accept them because of their age or low income.
They were upset further when Western NSW Local Health District provided in the letter a contact list of a variety of recreational groups in Parkes - including rugby union, hockey, soccer and netball clubs - to help with "the transition into community based exercises and activities".
They were also encouraged to use the free facilities in town such as the Parkes Swimming Pool, walking tracks and the outdoor gyms at Lions Park and Kelly Reserve.
The concerned participants turned to Member for Orange Philip Donato for support, meeting him in Cooke Park on March 1 where they spoke out about the change.
"Our purpose is a healthy rural population, the Healthy Lifestyles is a terrific part of our health service in the community of Parkes, which regardless of race, age and income, provides permanent health and decent social infrastructure," Bev said.
"The fact that the Healthy Lifestyles group, with voluntary donations has purchased exercise equipment such as a rowing machine, a cross changer and exercise bike, demonstrates that the women under the advice of their individual health practitioners take their advice seriously, and above all wish to avoid surgery and permanent disability.
"We need this service."
Bev said the program was just as socially and emotionally beneficial for the elderly group as it was physically.
Parkes man Greg Morrissey has been involved in the program since 2014 and said the government should allow for the Healthy Lifestyles program as it stands to continue.
If he can't continue with the program, he said he wouldn't travel out of town to exercise and that he "just won't exercise".
"It's very disappointing… There are regular numbers turning up each week," he said.
Fellow participant Neville Campisi questioned how safe it was for the elderly to use the outdoor gyms.
"What happens when we go to do that there and we fall off and get hurt, and there's no one around?" He said.
"I'm not impressed at all."
There were also concerns about the climate when it came to using the outdoor equipment.
"What about winter? And look at the summer we've just had," Gail Rosewarn said, referring to the frequent 40 degree days in Parkes.
"Also, most gyms won't take people our age or older because it's too much of a risk."
Flo Riseborough, who also plays bowls, became involved in the program after her knee replacement and upon recommendation from her doctor.
"I also walk... I'm trying to keep myself healthy so that I'm not in the nursing home before I have to be," she said.
"My beef is with the NSW Health - they're funding specialist medical services to these drug-fuelled music festivals at a reported cost to taxpayers.
"Where's the justice in this? Just because we're old, does that mean we are not worthy of assistance?
"After all we're doing the right thing by trying to keep ourselves healthy and out of the hospital system, while these people that go to these music festivals taking drugs are doing something that's illegal.
"Who should NSW Health be helping? Them or us?
"If they can spend their money on drug takers who are doing something illegal, they can spend their money on us."
Mr Donato said the change wasn't fair for people "who have worked hard their whole lives".
“NSW Health [will] transition program participants to community based exercise and activities, and attached a list of local sports clubs and gyms...They've pointed them towards taking up rugby union, soccer, get real!" He said.
“Many of these men and women are also pensioners who do not have the disposable income to purchase memberships to gyms and clubs.
“These people are justifiably outraged; they are taxpayers and shouldn’t suffer continued inequity of services which city folk benefit from.
"This is an essential service, we're not living in a third world country. The amount of money spent on this program must be minimal."
Mr Donato said the people using the program were saving the government money by keeping themselves out of hospital.
“Given the emphasis upon mental health, especially here in rural and regional NSW where isolation from services is prevalent, the mental health benefits from this program are enormous," he said.
Bev said the program used to run out of the old Parkes Hospital in a large area which saw 30-40 people involved, before moving to the new hospital in 2015 into a much smaller space.
"We're down to 18 people now," she said.
"This has been a long-time coming."