Western NSW Local Health District will be reformatting its Healthy Lifestyles program at the Parkes Hospital, with the changes coming into affect by March 18.
The changes include a more structured, individualised program, targeting "high risk groups identified by the Western Area of Health" and requires participants to be assessed for suitability.
The announcement has left a number of Parkes' senior citizens, who have been involved in the existing program for up to 17 years, fearing they will have no where to exercise if they are deemed unsuitable for the revamped program.
The elderly residents protested the changes in Cooke Park on March 1, turning to Member for Orange Phil Donato for his support.
In response to the protests, a Western NSW Local Health District spokesperson said the Healthy Lifestyles program aims to avoid hospital treatment for people with chronic health conditions by helping them to maintain a healthier lifestyle at home.
"The program is designed for people with clinical conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoarthritis, and some patients recovering from surgery," the spokesperson said.
"Entry into the program involves a clinical assessment and referral by a general practitioner, and may require additional assessments to ensure suitability.
"The program sets goals for each patient, and supports them through a six to 10 week program focused on helping the patient better manage their own health after completing the program.
"The format of the program is consistent with health policy, and is designed to help patients regain independence and reduce their need to use hospital services."
The spokesperson said the health service has been "working to ensure that participants in the program meet its evidence-based criteria" since 2014.
"From March 18, participants whose health needs are not being met by the program will be encouraged to use the free Get Healthy Information and Coaching service, and to participate in suitable exercise and lifestyle activities," the spokesperson said.
The seniors were given a contact list directing them to alternative exercise activities in Parkes, which included rugby union, hockey and touch football, as well as bowls, swimming and yoga.
"Participants were provided with a three page list of health and activity services and programs available locally. The list included activities such as aqua aerobics, bowls and community exercise groups," the spokesperson said.
"It was not intended that every activity on the list be considered an appropriate option for all participants.
"The Health Service has also approached local gyms and activity providers to try to help identify appropriate, affordable options for participants not clinically suitable for the Health Lifestyles program."