GREENS NSW POLICY INITIATIVE: RESCUE OUR PUBLIC HEALTHCARE SYSTEM
A decade of Liberal-National government and a global pandemic has left our health system in crisis. Wait times for emergency departments and ambulances have exploded, chronic understaffing and deteriorating working conditions have pushed frontline healthcare workers to protest in the streets, and more and more people can’t afford the care that they need.
The Greens have a plan to make sure that if you need to see a doctor, call an ambulance or go to hospital, you will get the care you need, when you need it, at no out-of-pocket cost. We will do this by increasing public services like public dental clinics, public mental health clinics and public GP and allied health clinics. We will look after our health workers with safe staffing ratios in public hospitals and a real wage increase, and we will repair our broken ambulance network.
The Greens have already introduced a bill to the NSW Parliament to establish Nurse to Patient Ratios and pushed the Government to give a bonus to nurses. With your vote, you can put the Greens in the balance of power where we can work to fix our healthcare system and provide free healthcare when & where you need it.
The pandemic pushed our already struggling health system to the brink. Frontline healthcare workers are burning out and resigning from what were already understaffed and under-resourced hospitals.
The Liberal-Nationals have built new hospitals without funding the staff needed to fill them, leading to dysfunctional or closed wards, record emergency department wait times and dangerous patient outcomes.
The Greens will rescue our public hospitals by:
- Introducing safe nurse-to-patient ratios
- Abolishing the public sector wage cap
- Giving a real pay rise to our healthcare workers with annual pay rises above inflation
- Bolstering the public community health sector so you can access a GP, allied health professional, dentist or mental health professional through your local public community health centre - for free.
All NSW residents should have access to quality public health services, regardless of their postcode.
Communities in rural and regional areas often struggle to access the care they need due to a decade of poor funding and mismanagement of regional health by the Liberal-National Government.
The Greens will invest in the NSW regional health system and make free and accessible healthcare options available to all residents of regional NSW.
We’ll support health workers choosing to live in the regions, fix the broken locum system, expand assistance for patients who need travel support, address the barriers to junior doctors choosing to become GPs, and establish a Rural and Remote Health Commissioner to monitor and report on the performance of NSW Health in providing health care to regional NSW. And we’ll support state-of-the-art telehealth facilities in rural and remote health services where this supports but does not replace on-site staff.
Repair our broken ambulance network
When an emergency strikes we expect to be able dial ‘000’ and have an ambulance on our doorstep in minutes. Sadly, this is no longer the case in NSW - and the last thing you want to have to think about is whether or not you can afford the ambulance fee - a whopping minimum cost of $327 up to a maximum of $6,668. The NSW government currently subsidises just under half of the cost of providing ambulance services; the Greens believe ambulance and patient transport services should be provided at no out-of-pocket cost to you.
The Liberal-Nationals have allowed our ambulance network to fall into complete disarray, underinvesting in skilled paramedics and ignoring pleas from the ambulance union to fix it. Ambulance wait times reached a decade high in 2021 even before the Omicron wave, putting patients' lives at risk and an already stressed workforce at breaking point.
Put simply, New South Wales does not have enough qualified paramedics. Per 100,000 people, our state has only 40.8 qualified paramedics, compared to 53 in Victoria and 70 in Queensland. Meanwhile, there’s an overreliance on the ambulance network to do basic patient transport, meanwhile vehicles are increasingly not available when and where they’re needed most, particularly in regional and rural NSW.
The Greens will repair our broken ambulance network by:
- Scrapping the wage cap and give paramedics a real pay rise
- Hiring at least 1500 more paramedics for regional NSW and introducing fit for purpose deployment modelling to adapt to the changing needs of our communities.
- Introducing a 24/7 patient transport service which would decrease delays to patient care and free up ambulances for emergencies.
- Supporting and expanding the Intensive Care and Extended Care Paramedics programs
- Ensuring hospitals have facilities for paramedics to rest when experiencing bed block
TAKING CARE OF OUR HEALTH WORKERS
They look after us - it’s our turn to look after them.
Our healthcare system is in crisis after 12 years of Liberal/National government. Nurses and midwives have seen their wages go backwards in real terms, while inadequate staffing levels puts them and the patients they care for at risk.
Many of our hospitals are operating at 100% capacity with not enough staff to cope with demand. Patients are waiting for hours post operation for pain relief, while ambulances can’t offload. Our nurses and midwives are leaving NSW in droves for better pay and conditions interstate. One in four junior doctors have thought about suicide due to unsafe workloads, bullying and harassment.
The Greens plan will show our health workers the respect they deserve while attracting skilled workers back to the profession and inspiring others to join it.
The Greens will attract, train and retain public healthcare workers by: :
- Mandate Nurse to Patient Ratios across the public healthcare sector.
- Remove the wage cap and give a 15% pay rise for nurses, midwives and paramedics and then an increase of 2% above inflation for the next 4 years
- Pay nursing, midwifery and paramedicine students for their time on placement at the rate of a junior Assistant in Nursing.
- Establish a regulatory body to address working conditions in health services including but not limited to reducing occupational violence, retention of experienced staff, eliminating excessive and unsafe work hours and addressing bullying and harassment of junior staff.
- Give NSW Health Employees 100% of their fringe benefits (Currently, NSW Health employees share 50% of their $17,000 salary packaging benefits with their employer)
- Create a senior nursing pay scale to incentivise experienced nurses to stay in the system.
- Create structured pathways for new enrolled nurses to gain experience in a variety of clinical environments.
- Underwrite the pay and conditions gap for GP registrars and employ GPs as staff specialists in public primary care services.
- Exempt general practitioners from payroll tax
- Hire at least 1500 more paramedics for regional NSW and introduce fit for purpose deployment modelling.
- Support and expand the Intensive Care and Extended Care Paramedics programs.
- Ensure hospitals have facilities for paramedics to rest when experiencing bed block.
- Address longstanding under-resourcing of the NSW Health Hospital Pharmacy workforce by recruiting an additional 100FTE intern pharmacists, 100FTE foundation resident pharmacists, 200FTE hospital pharmacists and 88FTE emergency medicine pharmacists over the next 4 years.
Public Dental Healthcare
In 2021-22, 16.4% of Australians reported cost as a reason for delaying or not seeing a dentist. This proportion is increasing and particularly impacts young people, people with a long-term health condition and people living in rural areas.
Good oral health and being able to see a dentist as soon as you need to is an important part of preventive healthcare, since untreated or delayed dental problems can have a huge impact on your health and your quality of life - in fact in 2019–20, about 67,000 hospitalisations for dental conditions may have been prevented with earlier treatment (AIHW).
Our public dental services can’t keep up with demand, with a whopping 134,330 adults and 42,340 children on the wait list in NSW and an average wait time of 465 days. In NSW, only 5% of dentists work in the public system.
The Greens will employ 73 more dentists and oral health therapists in the public system to bring down wait times so that you can access the care you need, when you need it, at no out-of-pocket cost. We are committed to removing the public sector wage cap and improving pay and conditions for health workers in the public health system.
Reproductive Health for All
Reproductive health care - including contraception and fertility treatment, maternity care and abortion, menopause care and gender affirming care - are essential components of comprehensive health care. The Greens will make sure this essential care is available across NSW - no matter your postcode or your income. We affirm every person’s right to make their own reproductive health choices.
To do this, the Greens will:
- Provide parents with support from a known midwife (and backup midwife) throughout their pregnancy and birth.
- Replace the inefficient BirthRate Plus staffing model for midwives with safe midwife staffing ratios and give midwives a 15% pay rise.
- Improve access to contraception, fertility treatment, abortion, and menopause care through the public health system.
- Provide free period products in all public toilets and schools.
- Deliver additional funding of $150 million over 5 years to Women’s Health Centres across the state.
Preventative Health and Wellness
Chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes are the leading cause of illness, disability and death in Australia. The causes of chronic disease are complex and often don’t just come down to the individual. The wider social determinants of health, such as the social, environmental, economic and cultural environments in which we live, work and play have a significant impact on our health.
To effectively address the underlying causes of chronic disease, we need a systems approach that supports us to create conditions that influence better health, especially for people who live in environments that contribute to poorer health outcomes. Our towns and cities can be designed to support healthier choices, such as providing access to nutritious food or ensuring they are walkable with connected cycleways.
The Greens believe that investing more in strategies and programs to support people of all ages lead healthier, more active lifestyles will reduce the overall impact of chronic diseases on our healthcare system into the future. We will ensure more of the health budget is spent on prevention and wellness, including for lower socio-economic communities, regional and First Nations communities.
Preparing for the Next Pandemic
The next pandemic shouldn’t come as a surprise, whether it’s next year or in 20 years. Now is the time to implement the lessons we’ve learned so that we can avoid harsh measures like lockdowns in the future.
The Greens will establish a fund to support local councils and health and education departments to improve ventilation and air filtration in all health facilities and public buildings.
We’ll support domestic manufacturing of essential medicines, vaccines and PPE to prevent shortages due to overseas supply chains. And we’ll fund research into existing and emerging pathogens, vaccines, and post-acute infection syndromes like long COVID and myalgic encephalomyelitis.
No one should have to choose between keeping their community safe, and keeping food on the table. That’s why we’ll fund sick leave for gig and casual workers on an ongoing basis.
Finally, we’ll make sure that only NSW Health can be in charge in response to a pandemic, not the police.
PRIORITISING MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING
Even before the pandemic, floods and bushfires our fractured, privatised mental health system was broken. Now it’s in crisis. In 2021, there was a 21% increase in the number of people experiencing mental illness in NSW. It’s estimated mental illness will have a $7.4 billion impact on the NSW economy by 2025.
Spending on mental health in NSW is the lowest per capita of any state and it shows. Mental health care in NSW is expensive, hard to find and hard to access. One in 3 psychologists are unable to see clients and the average wait to get an appointment is now between three and six months. Psychiatry is just as bad. Psychology appointments often cost upwards of $100 a session even with a rebate, with psychiatry appointments more costly still, pushing access to care out of reach for many who need it most. In regional NSW, it has become almost impossible for many people to access affordable mental healthcare.
We need urgent action in NSW to deal with the mental health crisis. The Greens have a plan to massively expand our public mental health system and make sure everyone can access the mental healthcare they need, when and where they need it.
THE GREENS WILL:
Support a Special Commission of Inquiry into Mental Health Services in NSW.
Invest in supported accommodation for mental health patients with $50 million in funding to build housing with mental health support, starting in areas with the highest unmet demand
Invest in free, publicly-owned community-managed mental health services.
Provide a $15 million funding increase to youth services for non-clinical prevention and early intervention mental health support programs.
Build 3 mother and baby units in regional centres to help new parents with mental ill-health.
Commit $6 million over 6 years to expand the Australian Psychological Society’s volunteer Disaster Response Network for frontline workers and communities following disasters.
Create digital access points to allow financially vulnerable individuals access to private, functional spaces where they can do telehealth appointments.
Fund free nutrition and wellness programs for people on a concession card in public mental health clinics and via local councils.
Fund local councils to offer multiple free group fitness and wellness activities for people on a concession card in public parks and spaces run by appropriately trained health and fitness professionals.
Provide $2 million annual and ongoing funding for mental health NGOs to be part of Mental Health Action Teams.
Improve access to psychedelic medicines treating PTSD, depression and anxiety.
Psychedelic medicine has become the next big breakthrough in mental health treatment. Trials around the world have demonstrated that psychedelic drugs like psilocybin and MDMA have the capacity to significantly reduce the symptoms of PTSD, depression and anxiety through only three sessions of psychedelic assisted therapy.
The Greens will dedicate more funding towards psychedelic therapy research in NSW so that this breakthrough therapy can be made available to those who most need it.
Regulating Vaping in NSW
Vaping has exploded in popularity in the last decade. Governments across Australia have reacted by banning vapes containing nicotine, but instead of fixing the problem this has just made it worse. NSW now has a thriving black market for nicotine vapes leading to products with unknown ingredients and incredibly high levels of nicotine. Even worse, black market retailers don’t ask for ID, so it’s easier than ever for people under 18 to access nicotine products.
Nicotine vaping is legal and widely available in the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand and the European Union, where it has resulted in the reduction of adults smoking tobacco. Australia remains the only country in the world that requires a prescription to access nicotine vaping products.
Like any drug, nicotine vaping poses a risk of harm. Those harms are best dealt with through regulation, just like alcohol and cigarettes, not prohibition. That’s why the Greens have a plan to regulate nicotine vaping in NSW to prohibit harmful chemicals in vapes, limit nicotine content and, most importantly, to keep vapes out of the hands of young people. Read more here.