'Drastic decline': Rural health care slammed in Inquiry submissions

Rural Health Inquiry: Patients, professionals slam rural health care system in hundreds of submissions to Parliamentary Inquiry

Health
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A nurse went two years without a formal meal break, in a system dangerously over-reliant on overworked local nursing staff, a parliamentary inquiry into rural and regional healthcare has heard.

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A nurse went two years without a formal meal break, in a system dangerously over-reliant on overworked local nursing staff, a parliamentary inquiry into rural and regional healthcare has heard.

Some 149 submissions from residents and healthcare professionals condemning the healthcare system were made public this week.

The theme of dozens of submissions read by the Leader was simple: there's not enough rural doctors, not enough nurses and things are getting worse, not better.

Many of their authors asked to remain anonymous.

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But Liverpool Plains farmer and rural advocate Fiona Simson was happy to put her name to her submission.

She said rural health services have declined over the last decade or so, to such a degree she was compelled to speak up.

Despite the work of "passionate, committed and caring" health staff working under what she called "stressful and trying conditions", the system is not working, she said.

"The availability of GP services, and hospital services has declined drastically," she said, in her submission.

"Far from being 'world-class' ... some in my area are now driving hundreds of kilometres to city emergency rooms if they are able to, rather than wait for lengthy periods in overworked emergency rooms, or be ferried to non-existent services in their local 'hospital'."

Weekend services at her local Quirindi hospital essentially don't exist, she said.

"If a kid breaks their arm playing sport on the weekend, it's either travel to Tamworth, or wait till Monday (and then probably travel to Tamworth)," she said.

Gunnedah Shire Council also made a public submission to the inquiry, complaining the region has just one GP per 3000 residents.

The submission, written by council General Manager Eric Groth, said the shortage leaves local GPs "unable to cope" with demand.

"This is believed to be one of the highest ratios in the Hunter New England Health area," his submission said.

An anonymous registered nurse, whose submission does not identify where in NSW she works, told the Inquiry the consequences of that shortage.

A locum doctor recently told the RN: "I expect you to act like junior doctors".

The nurse went two years without a formal meal break.

"We are not able to provide the care out patients need. They get the bare minimum, often after waiting hours to be seen," they said.

"I love my job. But I am one of three permanent RNs in the department. If things don't improve I won't be staying on. After 12 years I can't deal with the stress anymore. I love my job. But I didn't sign up to be a junior doctor."

The upper house health outcomes and access to health and hospital services in rural, regional and remote New South Wales inquiry was announced following the tragic stories of Allan Wells and John Stingemore, in Cobar.

Mr Wells died after he was discharged from Cobar District Hospital against the wishes of his family. He allegedly went without food or water for three days due to a lack of staff - and the hospital ran out of morphine and paracetamol.

Mr Stingemore lost a toe after he was allegedly not properly treated with antibiotics for an infected leg while a patient at Cobar.

After another horror incident at Dubbo Base Hospital, an official investigation concluded a systematic failure to check test results contributed to the death of a baby girl. A doctor who blew the whistle on the hospital was sacked for being "unsupportive" of colleagues.

Every single submission read by the Leader was critical of the rural healthcare system and all said there was an urgent need for change.

The story 'Drastic decline': Rural health care slammed in Inquiry submissions first appeared on The Northern Daily Leader.

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