THE NSW Labor Party has promised to deliver 500 new paramedics to rural and regional NSW if it wins government in the 2023 state election.
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It comes off the back of a parliamentary health inquiry, which found significant deficiencies across the state's rural and regional communities.
Opposition leader Chris Minns was in Bathurst on Sunday to announce the first step in his party's plans to solve the problems if elected.
Labor has promised to commit $150 million to fund an additional 500 paramedics in its first term in office, with the new workforce to be spread across rural and regional communities based on need.
As part of that promise, a Labor Government would also be working to upskill new and existing paramedics to intensive care and extended care paramedics, enabling them to deliver more lifesaving and compassionate care 24 hours a day, easing the pressure on hospitals.
"There are just too few paramedics in NSW. We've got the second lowest number of paramedics of any state, they're the second lowest paid of any state, and the callout target - the percentage of on-call emergencies that are being met on time - is dropping to the lowest point since records have been kept," Mr Minns said.
"It is not paramedics' fault. They are working around the clock in extremely difficult circumstances, but the bottom line here is we need more paramedics, particularly in regional NSW, and we need to train up our paramedics to do more difficult and skilled work when it comes to health care in NSW."
Mr Minns said a Labor Government would be consulting with health care professionals, along with the Health Services Union (HSU), to ensure the additional paramedics resources are directed to where they are needed most.
"We're committed to recruiting [paramedics] intermittedly over those first four years," he said.
"... They're crucial for regional hospitals, they're crucial for regional communities."
The health crisis in NSW extends beyond paramedics services, though.
The parliamentary inquiry found residents in rural, regional and remote parts of the state "have inferior access to health and hospital services" and as a result receive some patients are receiving "substandard levels of care".
Among the recommendations released with the findings was to address workforce shortages in numerous professions, including nursing and midwifery.
Bathurst nurses and midwives have gone on strike on three occasions in 2022, most recently on September 1, due to fatigue and safety concerns, among other reasons.
They have also been calling for better staff to patient ratios to improve safety in hospitals and deliver better outcomes.
Mr Minns assured that Labor has not forgotten nurses.
He, along with NSW Shadow Minister for Health Ryan Park, said there would be a series of announcements coming ahead of the 2023 election in regards to Labor's plan for health.
This includes plans for more ambulances and other emergency vehicles to aid the new paramedics, and plans to address the concerns relating to nurse shortages.
"We've committed to rolling out our differences with the NSW Government with plenty of time for voters to make that decision before they cast their vote in March 2023, but this is a staggered process," Mr Minns said.
"Obviously there's negotiations that need to take place with stakeholders, we need to take into consideration what frontline workers go through every single day, we also need to look at the impact of the NSW budget, but we've got a plan, we're sticking to it, and we'll announce our plans closer to the election."
A lot of seats in regional and rural NSW have long been held by non-Labor Party members and are considered safe seats, including the Bathurst electorate, which has been held by Paul Toole since 2011.
Those MPs stand a good chance of being re-elected, and, if that ends up being the case in 2023, Mr Minns said he is prepared to work with them to deliver important health initiatives.
"Our approach to politics over the last 12 months has been to work with all sides, all stakeholders about making sure we're in a position to get the best out of the public services in NSW," he said.
"We think change is required. We believe that common sense solutions are going to be needed because these are complicated, entrenched problems, but our view is that the state needs renewal and the government's been in for 12 years; the same people dealing with the same issues in the same way won't cut it. The state needs change, that's what Labor brings.
"We'll work with anybody that's committed to that as an ideal, and if that's a Coalition member, if that's a Labor member, if that's an independent, we want to work with them to make the system better."
Labor's plans have the support of the NSW HSU, with secretary Gerard Hayes, a former paramedic, joining Mr Minns and Mr Park for the announcement on Sunday.
"This will go a long way to support outcomes for the whole community right throughout regional NSW," Mr Hayes said.
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