GREENS NSW POLICY INITIATIVE: RURAL AND REGIONAL HEALTH
YOUR HEALTH SHOULDN’T DEPEND ON YOUR POSTCODE
Your health shouldn’t depend on your postcode. But the reality is that communities across rural and regional NSW don’t have fair access to health care - in fact, on average people living in metropolitan areas of NSW live 2.2 years longer than people in regional, rural and remote areas.
Everyone in NSW should have access to quality public health services, including primary health care, acute and emergency care, birthing services, dental care, mental health services, and support for people with drug or alcohol addiction.
Our full health policy platform can be found here - www.greens.org.au/nsw/healthcare2023 including looking after our health workers, preventative health and wellness, reproductive health and preparing for the next pandemic.
The Greens will:
- Open 12 public primary care services where you can see a GP and allied health professionals for free
- Retain skilled health workers with a 15% pay rise for nurses, midwives and paramedics working in the public system
- Replace expensive and inefficient private locum agencies with a statewide service to effectively coordinate the deployment of health workers for temporary contracts
- Establish outreach programs so that you can see a specialist closer to home
- Expand the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme to cover the full cost of travel upfront and get you home after a hospital admission
- Tackle the GP shortage by removing barriers for junior doctors to choose a career in general practice, and recognising the expertise of doctors with specialist post-graduate qualifications in general practice and rural and remote medicine.
- Establish a Rural and Remote Health Commissioner
The recent Parliamentary Inquiry into Rural Health shone a light on what rural communities have known for years - that a lack of fair access to health services in the bush has horrific consequences. It’s never been more urgent to deliver meaningful reform to support rural and regional health services.
PUBLIC PRIMARY CARE CLINICS
Fee-for-service funding means it’s not cost-effective for many health professionals to offer services in small communities.
The Greens will establish 12 public primary care services, managed at a local level, where you can see a GP and allied health professionals like a physiotherapist, speech pathologist or dietician for free, including home visits for people with a disability or limited mobility and outreach services into local communities.
This can be funded within the existing NSW Health budget by redirecting the over $200 million wasted in NSW every year by the inefficient system of filling staff shortages through expensive private locum agencies.
The first phase of rollout of public primary care clinics would include one service (including associated outreach services) in every regional Local Health District: Central Coast, Far West, Hunter New England, Illawarra Shoalhaven, Mid North Coast, Murrumbidgee, Northern NSW, Southern NSW, and Western NSW. The savings from improved health outcomes and reduced hospital admissions over time will then be re-invested into more public primary care clinics.
TACKLING WORKFORCE SHORTAGES
Health workers are leaving due to burn-out, poor pay and unsafe working conditions. To retain our existing workforce, and bring skilled staff back into the public health workforce, the Greens will implement safe nurse to patient staffing ratios and give nurses, paramedics, and midwives a 15% pay rise with wages indexed to inflation at a minimum thereafter.
To tackle the GP shortage, we need to urgently remove the barriers that prevent junior doctors choosing a career in general practice. We finally have enough medical graduates, but too many doctors are choosing to practise narrow areas of medicine in urban areas. Currently, junior doctors take a pay cut and lose their parental and study leave when they leave the hospital system. The Greens will push the government to underwrite the pay gap and leave entitlements for GP registrars as has been done in Victoria. We’ll recognise the expertise of doctors who have done postgraduate specialist training in general practice and rural and remote medicine by paying them staff specialist rates when they work in a public primary care clinic. And we’ll provide state-of-the-art video telehealth facilities in rural and regional emergency departments where this supports local doctors to be called in less frequently (but not to replace on-site staffing).
And for communities reliant on locum health workers in the short term, we’ll replace expensive private locum agencies who profit from staffing shortages with a statewide service to efficiently coordinate the deployment of health workers for temporary contracts.
ACCESS TO SPECIALIST SERVICES
We’ll establish outreach programs so that you can see a specialist for a non-urgent appointment closer to home. For tests or procedures that have to be done in the city, we’ll expand the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme to cover the full cost of travel upfront, to include getting you home after a hospital admission outside of your Local Health District, and to include travel and accommodation for carers or a support person.
REPAIR OUR REGIONAL AMBULANCE NETWORK
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.
The Greens will repair our broken ambulance network by:
- 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
MAKING SURE WE DON’T STOP HERE
Finally, we’ll establish a Rural and Remote Health Commissioner to monitor and report on the performance of NSW Health in meeting rural health workforce, service accessibility, and health outcome targets to make sure that the findings of the recent scathing NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Rural Health aren’t left to gather dust.