Health minister Ryan Park said boosting the workforce is the government's first priority in implementing the recommendations of an inquiry which revealed a rural health system in "crisis".
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In the lead up to the state election in March, Labor contender Chris Minns - now premier - made a bold promise to implement all 44 recommendations of an Upper House inquiry into rural and regional health outcomes.
Asked what the first priority in implementing these recommendations would be, minister Park told reporters in Dubbo on Wednesday "[it's] the workforce".
"It's making sure that we have a laser-like focus on improving the workforce in western far western and regional and remote parts of NSW," he said.
"That's the biggest theme that came out of the regional and rural health inquiry and that starts from incentives. It starts with retainment. It starts with improving culture.
"And it also means we are supporting those clinicians, GPs, medical experts, those nurses - our healthcare workers on the ground."
Last year, the NSW Upper House handed down 22 findings and 44 recommendations in their inquiry into regional and rural health. The report detailed harrowing situations where patients were left to die on bathroom floors, emergency departments without doctors and cooks and cleaners being made to work as carers.
In May 2021, members of the parliamentary committee conducting the inquiry visited Dubbo and heard Wellington residents were struggling to access healthcare with only one doctor at the local hospital, there were issues recruiting and retaining staff at Dubbo hospital and key services at Parkes hospital had been closed.
Mr Park said, as shadow minister, he advocated for the inquiry and was committed to all recommendations.
"This is a situation where I believe governments of all persuasions for too long have been out of sight out of mind," he said.
"One of the first speeches I gave in the NSW Parliament recently was on the regional and rural health inquiry and the recommendations.
"I know under Luke Sloan's leadership in NSW Health - with the support of the districts in regional and remote NSW - they understand there is a real focus on improving health care for regional and remote NSW and that's not going to change.
"That is something that I'm going to continue to do every single day in this job because that's what the community expects of me and it's also what I expect of myself."
Joining Dr McGirr on the committee are Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin, Member for Cessnock Clayton Barr, Member for South Coast Liza Butler, Member for Monaro Steve Whan, Member for Myall Lakes Tanya Thompson and the Member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams.
"Rural and regional healthcare is in crisis," Dr McGirr said.
"It is unacceptable that the life expectancy of those in the regions is less than those in metropolitan areas."
The committee will be able to examine the financial expenditure and performance of relevant government agencies and inspect healthcare settings in NSW and other relevant jurisdictions. It will deliver its final report to the NSW Parliament within two years of its first meeting.
Health Services Union secretary Gerard Hayes accused the government of being too slow to scrap the public sector wage cap and negotiate a pay rise as promised before the election.
Asked about the industrial action, Mr Park said he has met with the union and will continue to meet with them "regularly". He said the changes were "complex" but his government was working "as quickly but as efficiently and effectively" as they could.
"We've been in power for around eight weeks. We are working very, very hard to turn around a system that hasn't had the focus that it should have on the human capital in the workforce for 12 years," he said.
"I'm an impatient person. So I will continue to move as quickly as I can."
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