What you need to know about endo and abortion access promises before the NSW election
Read Amanda's interview with Mamamia, where she discusses the vital importance of safe, accessible and affordable reproductive healthcare.
This week, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet was interviewed on Mamamia's The Quicky, where he exclusively announced that the NSW Liberals will invest $16.3 million to deliver new endometriosis and pelvic pain services if re-elected.
It's a measure that has been welcomed by many within the endometriosis community. But it's also a package that some feel is a bandaid solution to a wider issue.
Dr Amanda Cohn is a GP and upper house candidate for the Greens this state election.
According to Dr Cohn, reproductive health services - including treatment for endometriosis - should be provided through mainstream public health services rather than siloing these things off into specialist services. And from her perspective, the NSW Liberal Party's plan is opposite to what the Greens believe is the right course of action.
"We know that people are finding it harder and harder to get in to see a GP. We know that hospital elective surgery waitlists have blown out. And we know that the health sector generally is facing a staffing crisis," she said to Mamamia.
"Then people are either having to travel or pay significant costs to get into the private system to access reproductive healthcare."
As a GP and frontline emergency services volunteer based in Albury-Wodonga NSW, Dr Cohn said she has seen firsthand the lack of services available to women struggling with endometriosis.
And she feels the NSW Liberal Party's endometriosis package announcement is evidence of "further fragmentation of the health system".
When it comes to NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet's 16.3 million endometriosis package, here are the main details.
The money would be invested over four years to improve the management and care of endometriosis and pelvic pain for women with "severe symptoms", as well as funding two comprehensive endometriosis and pelvic pain hubs in NSW. One would be in metropolitan Sydney and the other more broadly in regional NSW, seven staff for each hub.
In the announcement, it was said that "free services" will be accessible.
Any measure attached to funds and encouraging awareness is a step in the right direction but the Greens are pushing for more.
If elected, the Greens have announced that they will ensure access to free and safe sexual and reproductive healthcare for NSW residents and properly fund women's health centres.
The Greens have also committed to opening public primary care services where you can see a GP and allied health professionals for free – therefore helping anyone dealing with endometriosis.
"From my perspective as a GP, trained to provide holistic whole-person medical care, it's not good care to treat conditions separately in separate services," Dr Cohn said to Mamamia. It's avoiding addressing the real underlying issues in our health system. The Greens will improve access to services by actually bolstering the public system so people can access medical care through mainstream public health services."
It's a similar situation for other forms of women's healthcare, including abortion. While NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet's position on abortion is known, he did say on The Quicky that a woman's right to have a pregnancy terminated will not change in NSW. He did confirm that "terminations will occur in private clinics" saying it's "not a matter of ideology, it's a matter of provisions of health services".
It's this point that the Greens have said they disagree with – and they want to make a woman's access to abortion services easier and less complicated. Dr Cohn said one of the best ways to achieve this is by allowing all termination procedures to be conducted in public hospitals.
"Abortion was decriminalised in NSW in 2019. That was a really important and historic step but there has been minimal effort to actually improve access to services since 2019," Dr Cohn said to Mamamia.
"I've cared for patients who have still travelled hundreds of kilometres or had to shop around to find a service to access abortion. And that's really unacceptable. We will push for abortion to be provided at every public hospital in NSW as a requirement of funding agreements with the government. And we will also support and facilitate for GPs to become prescribers of medical abortions as well so that it's available from your regular GP in your own community."
It's not only termination services that women in regional and rural areas struggle to gain access to, but also all reproductive healthcare too. Dr Cohn explained that much of these problems regionally come down to staffing shortages – because although the facilities may be available, there's no staff to perform the medical care.
Whether it's GPs, paramedics, nurses or midwives, there's certainly a chronic staff shortage, creating unprecedented strain on NSW's rural and regional health system.
"Across NSW they have either been leaving the profession or moving to Queensland and Victoria because of terrible paying conditions in NSW. In particularly the current staffing model is seriously flawed because it doesn't count babies as patients," Dr Cohn said to Mamamia.
"We have to address those staffing shortages for us to be able to offer regional communities the services they deserve."
The NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association has been campaigning for this for a long time.
As the Association recently said: "The NSW government's preferred staffing model is no longer fit for purpose and, despite the best efforts of nurses working short-staffed, it is not delivering a safe level of care to patients when they need it most."