Locals urged to share rural health care experiences

Labor is encouraging communities to come together and speak up about the systemic healthcare crisis in rural and regional NSW.

A Parliamentary Inquiry into rural and regional health in NSW has been announced to investigate a pattern of harrowing incidents and failings at hospitals in the bush.

The Shadow Minster for Health Ryan Park said it’s vital for health professionals and locals to make submissions to the Inquiry ahead of public hearings next year.

“This inquiry needs to hear from people in the bush. It needs to hear from nurses, doctors, allied health professionals and importantly it needs the locals to speak up,” Mr Park said.

“I encourage everyone who has a story to tell to tell it. There is nothing more powerful than a community coming together to fight for change.”

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.

The Shadow Minister for Rural Health Kate Washington said this is about equality, fairness and a fundamental right to healthcare.

“Nurses, doctors and healthcare workers are struggling with being under-resourced and under-funded. They are up against a culture of stay quiet at all costs as they do the best with what they have. This must stop. Health outcomes should not be determined by postcodes,” Ms Washington said.

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; that the median age of death for those in Sydney (79) is more than a decade higher than residents in our most remote communities (66); and that the highest rates of preventable hospitalisation and preventable chronic disease are in regional and rural areas.

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.

Media reports have continued to expose the dire situation as a growing number of health practitioners open up about the unprecedented challenges they’re grappling with, including staff shortages and limited ICU capacity.

Submissions are being accepted until December this year with public hearings to take place in the new year.