Southern Riverina news

Ratios promise missing


Funding has been committed by the NSW Government to address staffing shortage in health, particular­ly in regional areas, but without improved conditions some say it will not be enough.

NSW Member for Murray Helen Dalton said what’s missing from the NSW Government’s response to a damning inquiry into health outcomes and access to services in rural, regional and remote NSW is a promise on staffing ratios.

Nurses across the state have gone on strike four times this year alone. Each time they have lobbied the NSW Government for legislated ratios of 1:3 in emergency and 1:4 in the wards, better working conditions overall and a more adequate pay increase.

“New South Wales nurses are at the end of their tether,” Mrs Dalton said.

“How can they continue to care for patients when they have so many to look after in the first place? Why are we not listening to the people at the coal face of this problem; our nurses.

“If they had better ratios, perhaps they wouldn’t have to leave the industry because they are stressed, burnt out, overwhelme­d and exhausted.

“If we don’t support our nursing staff, how will we attract the next generation into the profession?”

Mrs Dalton said her three electorate offices are inundated with daily inquiries from patients and health care staff, and it is getting worse.

“There are just so many things wrong with our health system and while there is not one silver bullet, I do listen to the nurses. They tell me the introducti­on of ratios will make a huge difference to staff wellbeing and patient care and will bring NSW in line with other states.”

Of the 44 recommenda­tions in the health report, NSW has supported 41 in full or in principle, and three are noted.

Minister for Regional Health Bronnie Taylor said the NSW Government has drawn a line in the sand in recognisin­g the findings of the inquiry, and will take “meaningful action to provide safe and high quality health care services in the bush”.

She said since the inquiry commenced, the NSW Government has committed significan­t funding to address the issues raised including:

• A $4.5 billion commitment to employ a record 10,148 full-time equivalent staff to be recruited to hospitals and health services across NSW over four years, with around 40% of this workforce being for regional areas;

• An investment of $883 million over the next four years to attract and retain staff in rural and regional NSW by transformi­ng the way health clinicians are incentivis­ed to work in the bush;

• Doubled subsidies across the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodat­ion Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS) with a $149.5 million investment;

• An investment of $743 million funding boost over the next five years to enhance end-oflife care in NSW.

The NSW Government’s response to the inquiry coincided with the unveiling of its new Regional Health Ministeria­l Advisory Panel.

Chaired by NSW Rural Doctors Network CEO Richard Colbran, the panel will advise Ms Taylor, the Secretary of NSW Health and the coordinato­r-general of the Regional Health Division on opportunit­ies and solutions to improve healthcare, hospital and support services in regional NSW.

But with its 14 member panel reportedly not including a Murray representa­tive, Mrs Dalton says it will be “irrelevant” to her electorate.

“Considerin­g we are a genuine rural electorate, our hospitals are in crisis and we have no representa­tive on the panel, how are we supposed to contribute to a regional health plan and get better outcomes for Murray?

“We can’t attempt to strengthen health outcomes if we don’t even have a voice at the table,” she said.

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