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March 3, 2024

Saffin: inquiry into rural and regional health long overdue

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Janelle Saffin MP says the upcoming Parliamentary Inquiry into rural and regional health in New South Wales is a suitable way to highlight some issues of concern to country communities and to make recommendations for change. ‘It’s a wide-ranging probe which she says is long overdue.’

Ms Saffin said managing the public health system was complex and challenging, and patients and their families rightly had high expectations of standards of medical care. ‘Our doctors, specialists, nurses and midwives, and administrative staff do their very best to provide that care, but funding for clinical resources always seems to be tight.

‘We scrambled well here in preparing for the COVID-19 pandemic, and have been relatively fortunate with just over 50 confirmed cases so far this year. However, the COVID-triggered Queensland-NSW border closure has shown up the interdependency between Northern NSW and South East Queensland for specialist care.

Ms Saffin said our reliance on the Queensland hospital system, public and private, or Queensland specialists who treat us here, is very apparent.

An opportunity to take a closer look

‘The inquiry may provide an opportunity to take a closer look at these kind of issues – how we could perhaps be less reliant and invest in building up our system where we can.’

Ms Saffin said the NSW Upper House inquiry will consider: Health outcomes for people living in rural, regional and remote New South Wales; Access and availability of health services; Planning systems; Capital and recurrent health expenditure, and; Staffing challenges and allocations.

A wide disparity between city and country

Ms Saffin said an inquiry was timely because the wide disparity in health outcomes between city and country areas was laid bare in data from the Public Health Information Development Unit.

The analysis shows that: 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), and; The highest rates of preventable hospitalisation and preventable chronic diseases are in regional and rural areas.

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