The Health Outcomes And Access To Health And Hospital Services In Rural, Regional And Remote NSW report handed down by the NSW government on May 5, has revealed 22 findings and 44 made recommendations.
"The committee has found residents of rural, regional and remote New South Wales have poorer health outcomes and inferior access to health and hospital services, and face significant financial challenges in accessing these services, compared to their metropolitan counterparts," committee chair, the Hon. Greg Donnelly MLC said.
Some report findings include: Rural, regional and remote patients have significantly poorer health outcomes, greater incidents of chronic disease and greater premature deaths when compared to their counterparts in metropolitan areas (Finding 1).
There is a critical shortage of health professionals across rural, regional and remote communities resulting in staffing deficiencies in hospitals and health services (Finding 9).
There is a culture of fear operating within NSW Health in relation to employees speaking out and raising concerns and issues about patient safety, staff welfare and inadequate resources (Finding 20).
These findings led to 44 recommendations including:
Portfolio Committee No. 2 - Health considers undertaking an inquiry into mental health, including into mental health services in rural, regional and remote New South Wales in the future (Recommendation 25).
An independent office of the Health Administration Ombudsman be established to review concerns about NSW Health and to investigate issues such as alleged cover-ups of medical errors or deaths, inaccurate communications and VMO accreditation decisions (Recommendation 41).
Re-invigorate Local Health Advisory Committees to ensure proper community consultation on local health and hospital service outcomes and provide more information to communities about available services and relevant data on service standards and wait times for facilities (Recommendation 42).
"We have seen many examples of medical care that has failed to diagnose and treat a number of medical conditions, for example strokes and heart attacks which are not identified early. In addition, as there is a shortage of specialists in rural areas there seems to be a reluctance to refer patients to or engage with specialists in the city when clearly, they need such medical care. These types of failures can result in catastrophic injuries to patients," Kate Williams Medical Law Partnership principal Kate Williams said.
"We hope these recommendations are implemented soon for the benefit of both patients and their health providers."