Labor is welcoming the establishment of a Parliamentary Inquiry it called for into rural and regional health in NSW.
The expansive probe will consider:
- Health outcomes for people living in rural, regional and remote NSW
- Access and availability of services
- Planning systems
- Capital and recurrent health expenditure
- Staffing challenges and allocations
NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay said a Parliamentary Inquiry is desperately needed and long overdue.
“Health outcomes should not be determined by postcodes. We need to do much better for families living in regional NSW,” Ms McKay said.
“This is about equality, fairness and a fundamental right to healthcare. The state of healthcare across rural and regional communities is appalling. It’s systemic crisis that must be addressed now.”
Labor first called for an urgent inquiry into rural and regional health in October last year after a death at Tenterfield Hospital was reportedly linked to a lack of clinical resources.
Since then, the significant disparity in health outcomes between the city and country areas was laid bare in data from the Public Health Information Development Unit.
The analysis shows:
- Avoidable deaths can be twice as likely in rural and regional communities when compared to cities
- The median age of death for those in Sydney (79) is more than a decade higher than residents in our most remote communities (66)
- The highest rates of preventable hospitalisation and preventable chronic disease are in regional and rural areas
The Shadow Minister for Health Ryan Park said: “It’s no secret rural and regional hospitals are overstretched and under resourced. The health system can’t cope with the growing cuts and cost blowouts from the Liberals and Nationals. I hope this Parliamentary Inquiry is the wake up call the Government needs to address the dysfunctional state of rural and regional health in NSW.”
The Shadow Minister for Rural Health Kate Washington said: “Doctors and healthcare workers across regional and rural NSW have gone above and beyond to do the best they can with what they have. But the reality is, there’s a severe lack of funding and shocking staff shortages. After nine years in Government, the Liberals and Nationals are responsible for this mess.”
The Government has continued to spruik hospital upgrades but an Auditor-General’s inquiry revealed at least three regional projects are already over budget or with missed deadlines. There have been $2.2 billion blowouts in health and hospital projects including at the Dubbo and Macksville Hospitals.
A 60 Minutes investigation on Sunday exposed the dire situation across rural and regional hospitals. The program investigated a pattern of incidents and failings all over the State.
A growing number of regional and rural health practitioners have also spoken out about the unprecedented challenges they’re grappling with amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including staff shortages and limited ICU capacity.