NSW regional Health Minister Bronnie Taylor . Photo : NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short
“ The urgent implementation of safe staffing ratios is paramount .
Call for rural ratios
NSW rural healthcare inquiry gives scathing review .
By Eleanor Campbell
Nurses have condemned the “ shocking ” findings of a NSW government report which highlighted chronic understaffing , lack of access to services and discrimination in regional , rural and remote healthcare .
The report included harrowing accounts by people who say the system failed them , including an 85-year-old whose daughter said he had to beg hospital staff for food and water before he died .
The NSW Nurses and Midwives ’ Association ( NSWNMA ) said the NSW government must implement statewide nurse-to-patient ratios .
“ As this inquiry uncovered , there ’ s a myriad of short staffing concerns in regional health settings , which has put unrelenting pressure on nurses and midwives during every shift ,” said NSWNMA president Brett Holmes .
“ The circumstances they face while trying to deliver acute care is unreasonable and , on many occasions , unsafe .
“ The urgent implementation of safe staffing ratios is paramount and would help to address these issues .”
Regional Health Minister Bronnie Taylor said it was her “ absolute commitment ” to make sure rural residents could access health care .
“ Making sure that people are able to get the care that they need if it isn ‘ t available locally , that ’ s my absolute commitment ,” she told reporters .
The report said rural residents had been failed by a health system that favours big cities and leaves people in the bush with poorer health and inferior care .
Labor MP and committee chair Greg Donnelly wrote in the foreword that regional residents had been “ repeatedly … let down by the health system ”.
“ This evidence is by no means a reflection on the NSW Health staff working tirelessly in challenging circumstances ; rather it is an indictment of the system that has allowed this situation to develop .
“ Overall , the committee has found that residents of rural , regional and remote NSW 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 .
“ This is a situation that can and should not be seen as acceptable .”
The committee made 44 recommendations , including that NSW Health should seek to urgently increase nurse and midwife staffing numbers and co-ordinate with the commonwealth to fill healthcare coverage gaps .
The inquiry accepted more than 700 submissions and held hearings in several regional communities last year .
The stories submitted to the committee included an account of the final days of western NSW man Allan Wells , whose daughter Jamelle said the 85-year-old had been “ treated like a bed blocker ” when he fell ill .
“ He had two operations in five days after something went horribly wrong with the first one ,” Wells told the inquiry .
“ Just hours after we fought an attempt to discharge him , he went into cardiac arrest . Staff then suggested not resuscitating him , even though he had a full resuscitation plan in place .”
After Wells pulled through , his daughter said he had to “ beg for food and water ” because the hospital wouldn ’ t roster on a doctor during a long weekend .
“ An unsupervised junior intensive care unit doctor fought back tears over the distress he caused dad by three botched attempts to insert a tube in his nose ,” Wells said .
After being discharged from Cobar District Hospital to a nursing home , Wells believed he wasn ’ t “ worthy of a hospital bed ”, his daughter said .
“ He grabbed my arm and cried as he said , ‘ They ’ re giving up on me ’. My father died five days later ,” Wells said .
Taylor said the government would seek to formally respond to the inquiry sooner than the mandated six months .
“ I ’ m not going to disagree with the findings of the inquiry . That would be disrespectful and that ’ s not the way I operate ,” she said .
“ But what I will do is make sure that we have the best possible system we can but also acknowledge for all the people who are working out there every day that really good things happen in our health system ( as well ).”
Premier Dominic Perrottet said earlier that while he hadn ’ t yet read the report , he was familiar with the evidence the inquiry had heard .
“ My understanding is that a lot ... of those issues that came up during that inquiry have already been addressed or are in the process of being addressed ,” he said . ■
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