Independent candidate for Calare Kate Hook says the report on the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Regional Health saying it confirms her worst fears about the neglect of the health of country people.
"Hearing about patients dying on bathroom floors, cooks and cleaners acting as nurses and country hospitals operating without doctors is terribly distressing," Ms Hook said.
"It's also distressing to learn that nurses and doctors are frightened to speak up, that preventable patient deaths are covered up and that indigenous people avoid seeking care because of racism."
The report recommends that the NSW government urgently engage with the federal government at a ministerial level to establish a plan to address workforce shortages and review the current funding model for regional local health districts and appoint a Health Administration Ombudsman to investigate complaints about NSW Health and Local Health District bureaucracies.
"This is what I have been calling for. The dysfunction of unclear, often overlapping, federal/state responsibilities for health and cost shifting must cease," Ms Hook says, "the next federal government needs to step up and ensure the state health and hospital sector is properly funded.
Ms Hook said if she is elected to represent Calare in the 47th Parliament she will work tirelessly to ensure rural people get the same high quality medical care as those in the city.
"I will advocate for an independent Rural and Remote Health Commissioner, minimum required staffing levels at regional hospitals and mandated nurse-to-patient ratios," she said.
She also pointed to a recent study published in the Medical Journal of Australia that showed medical graduates from country areas who studied there were 3.6 times more likely to practice in regional areas eight years on, and 4.8 times more likely to work in regional areas.
Ten years ago there were over 800 rural generalists working in remote and rural NSW, according to evidence given by the NSW Rural Doctors Network to the Inquiry: "Today there are fewer than 200 and over 50 per cent of those are aged over 55 and are starting to prepare for retirement planning. If that population... is not supported and sustained... we are in serious trouble."
Ms Hook says people at the medical school at Charles Sturt University tell her they want more students, what they need is for the federal government to provide more funding for them.
"They tell me that currently in Orange they are capped at 37 places for which they had 1000 applicants. All the students, including four First Nations' students, are from regional and remote areas and they say they want to live and work here when they graduate," she said.
"At Charles Sturt we have a model for medical training that can help address the problem of workforce shortages in rural NSW but it is underfunded by the federal government. If elected I will pursue this vigorously within the new government.
"We have the solutions, what's lacking is the political will. Our people deserve decent health care and I will do everything in my power to get it for them."
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