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Skilled workers vital

Wednesday, 1st April, 2009

Millions of dollars expected to flow to the Greater Western Area Health Service could be better spent, according to the Broken Hill Health Council. The NSW Health Minister, John Della Bosca, said on Monday that he would adopt all but five of the recommendations made in the Garling Report into acute care services in public hospitals.

The four-year reform process would cost the cash-strapped Health Department $485 million. Of that, $176 million would be used to employ 500 ward-based clinical support staff who would free up doctors and nurses bogged down in paperwork, allowing them more time to focus on patients. But the chairman of the Health Council, Pam Tucker, said while she hoped there would be a flow-on regionally, she was concerned it was not in critical needs areas.

"Any improvement in health, NSW-wide or Australia-wide is going to be of benefit to the community, all communities," Ms Tucker said yesterday. "Are they going to help us with our renal unit? "Are they going to help us with our oncology unit? "Yes, there will be some flow-on through the region but is it in the areas we need? Probably not. "But we'll be positive and with the pressure we will bring to bare on the government with these issues we may make a difference."

Ten months was spent on The Garling Report which reviewed acute care services and came up with 139 recommendations for the government to ensure a better patient focus. As part of its recommendations, the report made three rural recommendations including a more skilled work force, amending the Mental Health Act to allow safe rooms, and addressing transport problems. Ms Tucker said attracting a skilled work force to the city was of paramount importance. "Getting and retaining medical practitioners, getting service providers out here, is critical."

Mr Della Bosca said two recommendations had been rejected outright, while three others needed further investigation. He said he did not support refunding payments for those who suffered hospital-acquired infection after being discharged, nor the need for non-ambulance trained driver positions. Meanwhile birthing services for low-risk procedures, the development of a new children's hospital and making paramedics stay with patients until the start of treatment, required more consultation.

Last Friday Mr Della Bosca announced a "clinician-led state-wide review to assess each public hospital's role in providing safe, high quality patient care." The move came following a recommendation from the Garling Report to look into the volume and quality of hospital services and the provision of safe care.

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