5 March 2022

Wagga MP calls for a separate rural health department

| Max O'Driscoll
Start the conversation
Wagga Hospital entrance

Member for Wagga Wagga Dr Joe McGirr is calling for the establishment of a department of rural health in NSW. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

A Wagga Wagga politician is calling for the creation of a new government department designed to tackle the unique medical challenges faced by people living in remote, rural and regional areas.

Member for Wagga Wagga Dr Joe McGirr started the e-petition as he believes a rural health department could meet the health challenges faced by those living outside the major cities.

With Bronnie Taylor taking on the new position of Minister for Regional Health in December last year, Dr McGirr wants to see her receive the support of a department behind her.

The petition follows Dr McGirr’s notice of motion in February when he called for the establishment of a stand-alone department.

So far, he says the feedback from the idea has been overwhelmingly positive.

READ ALSO Labor selects Mark Jeffreson as its candidate to challenge McCormack in Riverina

“Many people have shared their personal experiences, which reinforced my view that a great deal still needs to be done to address issues of concern for the people who live in regional, rural and remote areas,” Dr McGirr said.

“I have raised the idea of an independent department of rural health with members of the government and non-government MPs, and will continue to press the case with them.

“The challenges faced by rural and regional communities in healthcare are unique. Although there has been much work done to address these challenges, it is clear from the recent NSW Legislative Council rural health inquiry that there is much more to be done,” he said.

He believes the rural health department would have four primary roles – to address inadequate health workforce in rural communities, scrutinise the health decisions of government for how they would affect rural communities, safeguard and expand rural health services, and work with the federal government to introduce greater access to alcohol and drug addiction, and other mental health services.

“The healthcare experiences of people living in rural, remote and regional NSW are often very, very different to people from metropolitan areas, so it makes sense to base the department in a regional area so that staff are closer to the communities and issues,” Dr McGirr said.

READ ALSO Farmers reach regenerative agriculture success in the Upper Lachlan Shire

Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain has been outspoken on some of the health industry’s issues in her electorate.

She supported Dr McGirr’s idea in principle but wants the NSW Government to review and consider the findings of the soon to be released rural health inquiry before making any decisions.

“We know the challenges faced in rural areas are entirely different to those faced in the cities, so the approach to improving services needs to have rural and regional residents front of mind,” Ms McBain said.

“Our nurses and midwives have been overworked and underpaid for far too long. Many are fed up and are changing careers, which is leading to greater staff shortages across the region.

“People who live in regional and rural areas often have to travel for hours to access the level of care that people in the cities take for granted.

“Now is the time that both levels of government, federal and state, need to work together to ensure services in our communities are prioritised and rural and regional health services and outcomes are drastically improved,” she said.

READ ALSO Health service pleads to keep emergency department for emergencies only

Temora GP and Vice President of the Rural Doctors Association of NSW, Dr Rachael Christmas, liked the idea but harboured some concerns of what a rural health department might lead to.

“We need more representation of rural health and we need to be more understanding that there’s a close relationship between state and commonwealth roles in rural areas because of that very close relationship between the hospitals and the general practices which are under two different jurisdictions,” Dr Christmas said.

“Rural communities depend on both because the GP’s usually work for the commonwealth under Medicare, and also work for the hospitals and that’s under the state. It’s a very close relationship that has been ignored on many levels over the years.

“My concern is that if we have a totally separate department, a department of regional and rural health, that’s going to fractionate rural health from the department of health jurisdictions in the state,” she said.

Instead, Dr Christmas proposed a new branch under the Department of Health rather than a full split into two departments.

Original Article published by Max O’Driscoll on About Regional.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Riverina news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riverina stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.