Regional communities will benefit from a $98.3 million health services boost to support local and visiting frontline health workers as part of a record investment into more health services and infrastructure in the bush.
Premier Dominic Perrottet, Deputy Premier Paul Toole, Mental Health Minister Bronnie Taylor and Health Minister Brad Hazzard announced three new initiatives which aim to attract more health workers to regional NSW and support rural and regional patients who need to travel to access care.
The initiatives, which are part of the NSW Government’s recently announced $500 million package, include:
· $45.3 million to deliver modern, sustainable accommodation for health workers close to health facilities in the Murrumbidgee, Southern NSW and Far West Local Health Districts
· $30 million to help attract and retain health care workers, including new scholarships for young people
· $23 million to make it easier to access health care, including support for rural and regional patients who need to travel longer distances and a new online tool to navigate local services.
Mr Perrottet said this additional investment would help ensure people in rural and regional areas have access to the best health care possible, no matter where they lived.
“Health challenges can be tough enough without adding the burden of distance to a care plan, and that’s why we’ve set aside an additional $23 million to help address this,” Mr Perrottet said.
“The NSW Government’s focus has always been ensuring rural and regional communities get their share of health upgrades – and this latest announcement builds on the $900 million regional and rural health infrastructure spend in 2021-22.”
Mr Toole said a key component of the investment boost was securing more modern and sustainable accommodation for essential health workers which will also generate construction jobs in the regions.
“We know how important it is to ensure there is adequate and modern accommodation close to our health facilities in regional and rural communities that caters for locums, student placements and other visiting medical and nursing staff.
“This funding builds on the $30 million package for health worker housing I recently announced for the Hunter and Western NSW and extends the package to more than $75 million with intended benefits to communities in Broken Hill, Balranald, Cooma, Crookwell and Griffith,” Mr Toole said.
“The package also includes new regional scholarships to encourage young people from the bush to pursue a career in health care closer to home, caring for their communities.”
Mrs Taylor said the investment will also go towards supporting patients who need to travel long distances to access specialist care.
“As a registered nurse from the bush, I know firsthand how important it is that patients feel supported when having to travel away from home and their support networks for care,” Mrs Taylor said.
“Living in rural and regional NSW shouldn’t affect the care you receive, and this package delivers on all fronts – ensuring we have the health workforce, infrastructure and support we need.”
Mr Hazzard said the investment will help regional and rural health facilities provide upgraded or refurbished accommodation which is fit for purpose.
“There are many and varied challenges in attracting and retaining health staff to the regions and it is an issue nationwide, not just in New South Wales,” Mr Hazzard said.
“Our Government continues to look at and address those barriers such as providing modern accommodation and tackling the limited availability of leased residential property for health workers in various regions, including southern NSW.”