The unhealthy outlook of NSW Health on regional, rural and remote health

Article published 7 July 2021

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Dr Aniello Iannuzzi is chairman of the Australian Doctors Federation, deputy mayor of Warrumbungle Shire Council and a clinical associate professor at the University of Sydney and University of New England. He has been a visiting medical officer at Coonabarabran District Hospital since 1997.

He blames NSW Health’s lack of proper governance for the poor condition  regional, country and remote health services are in, not just lack of funding.

Dr Iannuzzi has given evidence to the current NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Regional, Rural and Remote Health Services. He testified that the principal problem is one of governance. Until that is cleaned up, he says, nothing will improve.

When a patient or clinician raises a concern, makes a suggestion or files a complaint, NSW Health senior management usually ignores or denies there is an issue. It’s a case of a bureaucracy that predominantly protects itself to the detriment of the service it is supposed and expected to provide.

Dr Iannuzzi says that we also need more funding, more beds, better medicine and equipment and more staff.

But without better governance more money would still be poorly spent, says Dr Iannuzzi. The equipment would still be misdirected, and clinicians would still be unwilling to work and give their best.

While we always need to recruit more health workers to the bush, Dr Iannuzzi says, there are plenty in the bush who have made a conscious decision not to work for NSW Health.

NSW Health seems to be in denial about the cause of the reluctance of many health professionals to work in the bush. Dr Iannuzzi cites the example of senior Local Health District management visiting Dunedoo earlier this year for a community forum organised by the Warrumbungle Shire Council. There were suggestions the Dunedoo community should be more welcoming to health workers.

It was implied, it seemed, that the shortage of health workers was the community’s fault. It was, Dr Iannuzzi says, nothing short of insulting and outrageous.

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