Giving evidence and taking stock of rural health in NSW

Thursday, 25 March 2021
People in waiting room

The Alliance was one of the first two organisations to give evidence in the initial hearing for the NSW Upper House Inquiry into health outcomes and access to health and hospital services in rural, regional and remote NSW. The NSW Upper House Health Committee established the Inquiry in August 2020 and has received more than 700 submissions, including one from the Alliance.

Hearings began on Friday 19 March 2021. Alliance policy team members provided evidence and responded to questions regarding potential solutions to address the inequity in health outcomes that rural communities in NSW experience. Rural health is characterised by poorer access to and use of health services, and longer waiting times for medical treatment and care. As remoteness increases, the health workforce is less able to meet demand and Medicare services become less readily available. These issues are persistent with many indicators not improving over time. The Alliance views this situation as unacceptable, and we believe it is important for all levels of government to work together to address this inequity.

Current funding arrangements and responsibilities between levels of government leave the system open to gaps, duplication and fragmentation in service delivery, particularly in prevention and primary health care. In its comprehensive submission, the Alliance advocated for greater collaboration between NSW Government’s Local Health Districts and the Commonwealth’s rural Primary Health Networks to develop effective ‘patient-centred’ care in the community. During the hearing, the Alliance supported the role of telehealth as an opportunity to complement face to face services, as well as the use of patient end services (where a health professional is present with the patient during a telehealth service).

The Alliance emphasised the need for rural training pathways (including the rural generalist pathway) to embed broadly skilled medical practitioners and allied health professionals into rural communities. The Alliance stressed the need for patients to have access to a broad range of primary health care services to minimise the burden on local hospitals.