NSW Labor has slammed the Berejiklian Government for failing to adequately fund hospitals in rural and regional NSW, after a string of troubling incidents in the state’s west exposed just how dysfunctional the health system is.

A media investigation today outlined the dire situation in rural and regional NSW, which includes a death and a series of near-misses at Dubbo and Cobar hospitals, within the Western NSW Local Health District. The report revealed important services such as maternity and surgical units have been gutted, with many hospitals even struggling to perform basic procedures such as changing a dressing or stitching up a wound.

It’s prompted Shadow Minister for Health Ryan Park to renew Labor’s calls for an independent inquiry into rural and regional hospitals with a focus on staffing, funding and the management culture.

“This is about equality, fairness and a fundamental right to healthcare. The state of healthcare in western NSW and more broadly across regional communities is appalling,” Mr Park said.

“There are growing concerns across the state among medical staff and community members about the dire state of rural and regional hospitals. There must be an independent inquiry to get to the heart of this dysfunction that is putting lives at risk.”

The Berejiklian Government has continued to spruik hospital upgrades but Labor has revealed that at least three regional projects are already over budget or with missed deadlines. The Auditor-General’s most recent inquiry into NSW Health also uncovered a massive $2.2 billion blowout in major health projects, including the Dubbo and Macksville Hospitals.

A growing number of regional and rural health practitioners have spoken out in recent weeks about the unprecedented challenges they’re grappling with amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have warned they will run out of ICU beds and won’t be able to cope if there is a spike in cases.

Shadow Minister for Rural Health Kate Washington said the Berejiklian-Barilaro Government has form in stringing communities along with the promise of upgraded hospitals.

“The Berejiklian Government points to hospital upgrades but bricks and mortar don’t save lives - doctors, nurses and paramedics do. The Liberals and Nationals have reduced rural and regional healthcare capacity and has no plan to turn it around. They can’t even deliver their own promises on time or on budget,” Ms Washington said.

“This also comes amid talk about lifting restrictions on regional travel but winding back restrictions would be very problematic given the Government has been reducing healthcare capacity in the regions for years.”