The State Government has appointed the first Deputy Secretary for Regional Health as Labor strives to fulfil its commitment to fixing the healthcare system in rural, regional and remote areas across NSW.
Confirming Luke Sloane in the role, Health and Regional Health Minister Ryan Park said it was about ensuring that regional health issues were central to the decision-making process within the ministry.
“I’m determined to tackle some of the key healthcare issues facing our regional communities, including prioritising the regional health workforce,” Mr Park said.
“The Deputy Secretary for Regional Health will play an important role in this as a strong advocate for resources and staffing at the decision-making table.”
Mr Sloane has served as the Coordinator-General of Regional Health since the new division was established in early 2022 under the previous Minister, Bronnie Taylor.
While the new title does not appear to have changed the role, Wagga MP Dr Joe McGirr said it would cement the position in the NSW Health bureaucracy.
“It’s locked into the executive structure with a regional division under it, so I see it as a step towards establishing a Regional Health Department,” he said.
“It’s not a separate Regional Health Department, which is what I think we should have, but it is nevertheless a positive step.”
Since the election, Dr McGirr has raised concerns about the Labor Government’s move to appoint a single minister over both health portfolios; however, he said Mr Park had demonstrated a commitment to the regions.
“I’ve said repeatedly that I would like to see a separate minister, but I do want to acknowledge the fact that the Minister has kept Regional Health as a separate ministry, and that is the requirement of the recommendations of the report,” he said.
“He’s taking that role seriously and we’re continuing to work with them on it as the committee looking at the implementation of the recommendations of the inquiry.”
Born and raised in Orange, Mr Sloane has a background in nursing and has worked for NSW Health for more than 20 years.
Following a recent tour of the Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD), he praised the role of healthcare workers in regional communities.
“There is something very special about our regional, rural and remote healthcare workers. Their connection and dedication to the local communities they are part of is remarkable,” he said.
NSW Health Secretary Susan Pearce also has a background in rural nursing and said the role would focus on implementing the Regional Health Strategic Plan.
“Mr Sloane is perfectly placed to help build on the excellent work already being done as we strive to deliver the best possible health care for people living in regional NSW,” she said.
“The Deputy Secretary will have a key focus on community engagement, regional workforce, contribution to primary care reform and access to transport and accommodation.”
Mr Sloane said the department remained committed to delivering on the recommendations of the NSW Rural Health Inquiry.
“Over the past year, I’ve travelled to all parts of regional NSW to see and hear the challenges faced by communities when it comes to accessing the quality health care they deserve,” he said.
“I’m confident as we continue to implement the recommendations of the NSW Rural Health Inquiry, we will continue to see meaningful improvements in the provision of healthcare services to these important communities.”
You can read the Regional Health Strategic Plan here.