Hunter-based Australian Lawyers’ Alliance (ALA) NSW spokesperson on health Catherine Henry is disappointed the parliamentary inquiry brought on by the crisis in regional and rural areas will not conduct a hearing in the region.
The first of 12 community forums for the Upper House inquiry into “Health outcomes and access to health and hospital services in rural, regional and remote NSW” started today (29 April) in Deniliquin.
Ms Henry said it was important for the inquiry to visit other communities, but the Hunter should also be on the list.
She added the Hunter New England Local Health District was the state’s largest; John Hunter Hospital was one of the most sued in the state, followed closely by Maitland Hospital; and that the Hunter had high rates of complaints to the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission.
“My firm handles many medical negligence cases for local people,” Ms Henry said.
“Many residents suffer avoidable death and injury because of preventable negligence, caused by under-resourcing, lack of staff and systemic failures.
“Our region has a large population but still does not have the proportionate resources that Sydney health services receive.
“Patients experience delays to treatment, and many are being transferred to Sydney – which is not good enough.
“The Hunter’s proximity to Sydney doesn’t mean it does not experience the same issues being faced by other regional, rural and remote communities.”
Ms Henry said John Hunter Hospital was the tertiary hospital for northern NSW.
Its emergency department is among the busiest in NSW and the only major trauma centre outside of Sydney.
It also has the only children’s hospital and child and adolescent mental health unit outside the state capital.
“There are continued media reports about staff saying Hunter hospitals are at breaking point due to the demands on them,” she explained.
Ms Henry helped draft the ALA’s submission to the inquiry – one of 700 it has received.
“Lawyers, journalists and health staff play a vital role in exposing systemic problems in health care but it is up to governments to act to prevent unnecessary deaths,” she stated.
“It is one thing to have an inquiry.
“However, we need action afterwards – not another report that gathers dust.
“We require a properly funded, data-based, strategy to improve rural and regional healthcare – and the Hunter is a vital part of that strategy.”