The NSW health system is ‘failing residents of rural, regional and remote areas,’ a State government inquiry has found.
The Inquiry into Rural, Regional and Remote Healthcare handed down its report last week, after conducting 15 hearings in 11 months across the State.
The report, which contained 22 findings and 44 recommendations, was highly critical of service provision in the bush.
It found that people living in rural areas had ‘significantly poorer health outcomes, greater incidence of chronic disease’ and higher numbers of premature deaths.
One of the biggest issues highlighted by the report was the critical and long-standing shortage of health workers, particularly GPs.
To address this issue, which has been a feature of regional health for decades, the report proposed that State and federal governments work together to develop a 10-year workforce strategy.
It also recommended a single employer model for GPs, allowing them to move more easily between general practices without losing their entitlements.
Working with the Primary Health Networks, the university sector and specialist medical colleges was also put forward as a way to increase the number of rural GP and specialist training positions.
The under-resourcing and understaffing of some rural and regional hospitals was also a major issue.
Underlying this lack of resources was a ‘culture of fear’ within hospitals that left staff unwilling to speak up about challenges such as resourcing, mismanagement and workplace harassment and bullying.
The Inquiry’s committee called for an ombudsman to be given greater powers to protect those wanting to speak out about failings.
The State’s new Regional Health Minister, Bronnie Taylor, told the ABC that she accepted the evidence and ‘I’m ready to fix these issues’.