After a series of preventable deaths and near misses at hospitals in rural NSW the Parliamentary Inquiry into Health Outcomes and Access to Health & Hospital Services in Rural Regional & Remote NSW was established in 2020.
The Inquiry follows allegations of widespread dysfunction and under-resourcing in the State's rural and regional hospitals.
Under its Terms of Reference, the Inquiry will investigate access to health and hospital services in rural NSW in comparison to health services provided in metropolitan NSW focussing on:
- quality of care;
- patient experiences;
- wait times;
- barriers to accessing quality health services;
- staffing and resource shortages;
- ambulance services; and
- oncology and palliative care treatment.
Since its establishment the Committee has received in excess of 700 submissions regarding concerns about the state of our healthcare system in rural NSW.
Startling evidence of grossly inadequate care and a lack of resources has been heard at the most recent public hearings.
These include reports of hospitals running out of crucial supplies including Panadol, morphine, antibiotics and blood products, whilst at one hospital kitchen staff have provided care to patients who have suffered strokes and newborn babies due to a lack of nursing staff.
The Inquiry has heard many healthcare facilities are reliant upon "virtual doctors" to staff the emergency departments with no doctors physically present in the hospital for days at a time.
Unfortunately, these issues are not new when it comes to the provision of healthcare and hospital services in regional NSW.
Carroll & O'Dea Lawyers has experience assisting patients and their families during times when the healthcare system has failed to provide adequate care and support.
Rebecca Tidswell is a leading medical lawyer practising at Carroll & O'Dea and has successfully represented rural patients and their families in cases including:
- Death of one patient and serious injury of another at a psychiatric facility with no resident psychiatrist, relying on a fly in fly out doctor only.
- Death of an unborn baby resulting from a failure of nursing staff being available to perform urgent ultrasound scanning.
- Brain injury suffered by a newborn due to the limited availability of paediatricians in the area.
- Life changing injuries suffered by a young man due to the lack of availability of a specialist to perform emergency surgery.
- Death of a young mother due to lack of availability of doctor review over a weekend.
Rebecca is following the public hearings with interest. "It is disheartening to see the same problems arising time and again. When will action be taken to protect our regional communities?"
The Inquiry hearings are scheduled to continue in various locations throughout rural and regional NSW up until March to December 2021.
At the conclusion of the public hearings, the Committee will be using the evidence gathered from the submissions and public hearings to develop a comprehensive report and propose recommendations to the NSW Government for addressing issues identified in the course of the Inquiry.
If you wish to view the upcoming hearings, you can join via the live webcast at www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/Pages/webcasts.aspx
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.