Politics must be now put aside to fix rural health after inquiry report handed down: Greens

Australian Greens

Greens NSW MP and health spokesperson Cate Faehrmann is calling on the government and the opposition to put politics aside and work together, with all stakeholders, to fix the rural, regional and remote public health system which has been handed down today. The report includes strong recommendations for reforming the health system, including growing the regional healthcare workforce.

“This inquiry was vital in shining a light on the inequities in health services that regional, rural and remote NSW communities experience. Now that it’s done I urge both the government and opposition to put politics aside and work together to implement the recommendations,” said Cate Faehrmann, Greens NSW MP and health spokesperson.

“The committee found that residents in rural, regional and remote NSW have inferior access to health and hospital services, especially for those living in remote towns and locations and Indigenous communities, which has led to instances of patients receiving substandard levels of care.

“We heard so many stories of people not being able to access the healthcare they need when they need it, whether it be simply booking an appointment with a GP in their town, needing a doctor when they visited the emergency ward at their local hospital or accessing life-saving cancer treatment because of outrageously high out-of-pocket costs.

“Right throughout the inquiry we heard how people outside of Greater Sydney and the bigger regional centres don’t expect specialist services in all locations, but they do expect high quality, locally delivered primary care.

“It was clear throughout the inquiry that the current Rural Health Plan was just another glossy brochure produced by government leading to no actual outcomes on the ground. The recommendation that the government set tangible goals in its next rural health plan to include measures such as increasing the doctor, nurse, midwifery and allied health professional workforce and set public health outcomes is therefore a good thing.

“One of the more disturbing issues that surfaced during the inquiry, and indeed, through the pandemic more broadly, was that NSW Health employees risk their careers if they speak out about issues in the workplace.

“One of the committee’s findings was that ‘there is a culture of fear operating within NSW Health in relation to employees speaking out and raising concerns and issues about patient safety, staff welfare and inadequate resources’.

“I urge the NSW Government to act upon the recommendation to establish an independent office of a Health Administration Ombudsman because the number of complaints received by the committee shows it is urgently needed. The Ombudsman would receive and review concerns about the administrative conduct of management of Local Health Districts and NSW Health from staff, doctors, patients, carers and the public.

“The establishment of a Regional Health Minister, and new regional health division within NSW Health, shows that this inquiry had teeth and has already spurred the government to act. It’s imperative that the momentum is not lost.

“I urge both sides of politics to commit to all recommendations and give this issue just as much attention after the state election due in March next year as it has received throughout the duration of this inquiry,” said Ms Faehrmann.

The committee held a total of 15 public hearings between March 2021 and February 2022. The committee received 720 submissions and 29 supplementary submissions. It should be noted that in a number of submissions both individuals and organisations indicated that they were expressing the views and sentiments of many in their local communities.

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