In response to an Upper House inquiry into health outcomes and hospital services in rural, regional and remote areas of the state, the NSW Government says they have budgeted for a multi-billion dollar overhaul of regional health staffing and infrastructure.
The parliamentary inquiry, which began in August 2020, found that residents of rural, regional and remote NSW have poorer health outcomes compared to their metropolitan counterparts.
They also faced less access to and "significant financial challenges" in accessing health services - which were often understaffed and under-resourced.
In May last year, members of the parliamentary committee conducting the inquiry visited Dubbo and Wellington to hear from local representatives and healthcare professionals about the situation here.
Among the issues raised were the difficulty Wellington residents have in accessing healthcare with only one doctor practising at the local hospital, issues recruiting and retaining staff at Dubbo's hospital and medical centres, a lack of supplies in aged care facilities and closure of key services at Parkes hospital.
Last week, a report detailing the NSW Government's response to the inquiry's 22 findings and 44 recommendations was released - with the government supporting 41 of the recommendations "in full or in principle" and noting three.
"It is my absolute priority to ensure that, no matter where you live in our state, you have access to the health services that you need and deserve," said Minister for Regional Health, Bronnie Taylor.
"It was important to hear directly from those on the ground, including patients, their families, health staff and communities, about where we need to address issues in our health system and also build on the NSW Government's ongoing commitment to best practice healthcare and reform."
In their response the NSW Government outlined funding which has been set aside in the 2021 and 2022 budgets to address some of the issues raised in the inquiry.
The largest pools of funding include $4.5 billion over four years to employ 10,148 full-time equivalent staff for hospitals and health services across NSW and $1.76 billion to recruit 2,128 new staff for NSW Ambulance and deliver 30 more ambulance stations.
$883 million will be spent over the next four years to attract and retain staff in rural and regional NSW, $149.5 million to improve and expand the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme and $743 million over the next five years will go towards enhancing end-of-life care.
To drive their response going forward, last week the government also announced a Regional Health Ministerial Advisory Panel, chaired by Richard Colbran, CEO of the NSW Rural Doctors Network.
Among those on the panel are Dubbo's Clinical Director of Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Warren Kealy-Bateman, Mayor of Parkes Ken Keith, Orange GP Dr Anna Windsor and Broken Hill Midwife Meg Austin.
The panel will create a new regional health plan, which will be released later this year.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: