Local people 'must help re-shape health' in mid Wales
Local people need to be involved in helping improve hospital and GP care in mid Wales, the health minister has urged.
Mark Drakeford joined doctors and experts from as far afield as the United States at the event in Powys to look at the challenges for the region.
An independent review six months ago noted "enormous" public concern.
Meanwhile, GPs warned of "desperate" problems in recruiting and keeping doctors, especially in rural areas.
Mr Drakeford said local people needed to be drawn in to help redefine the health service in mid Wales.
"We've all got to do better than allow people to travel with an elderly patients three hours in a car to have a 10 minute appointment to say that everything is OK, and then another three hour journey back again," he told a conference in Newtown.
"There is an important opportunity here to form the future of the health services here in Mid Wales, and it is a real opportunity for local people to lead the process - people who live and work here - and to plan for the future."
There has been a long battle going back nearly 10 years over changes to health services in mid Wales.
Health economist Prof Marcus Longley in his 200-page report said there had been "mistrust" over Bronglais Hospital's future.
There had been a series of protests about fears the general hospital in Aberystwyth - the only one for 50 miles around - would be downgraded.
The conference is looking at issues ranging from GP recruitment to telemedicine.
A hospital campaigner is co-chairing a new group looking to plot the future with health managers.
Prof Longley, of the Welsh Institute for Health and Social Care, spent nine months listening to medical staff and patients last year.
He called for the three health boards covering mid Wales - Hywel Dda, Powys and Betsi Cadwaladr - to work more closely together.
The future of Bronglais in Aberystwyth had been "dogged by uncertainty" with fears it was being run down. Prof Longley called for the hospital to be at the heart of changes.
The hospital serves patients in Ceredigion as well as parts of Powys and Gwynedd.
Mr Drakeford said there had been passionate debates about the future of healthcare and many people had "demonstrated their strength of feeling" for Bronglais in particular.
Jack Evershed, a campaigner to protect the hospital's services is now independent co-chair of the new Mid Wales Health Collaborative, along with Dr Ruth Hall, former chief medical health officer for Wales.
They will start working with health boards and the Welsh Ambulance Service to look at putting the Longley recommendations into practice after the conference.
Mr Evershed said the argument over Bronglais's future had been "finally put to bed" by Prof Longley's report.
"It was pleasing that our intuitive feeling that Bronglais is strategically important for mid Wales and has a future was recognised in the report. Now we have to keep going."
He said he hoped the outcome would be lessons which could be taken to other parts of rural Wales and beyond.