Hunter left out of regional and rural health inquiry

29th Apr 2021

Hunter based health lawyer and Australian Lawyers’ Alliance (ALA) NSW spokesperson on health, Catherine Henry, is disappointed that the parliamentary inquiry brought on by the crisis in regional and rural health will not hold a hearing in the Hunter.

The first of 12 community hearings for the Upper House inquiry into “Health outcomes and access to health and hospital services in rural, regional and remote NSW” start today (April 29) in Deniliquin.

Ms Henry said it is important for the inquiry to visit other communities, but the Hunter should also be on the list. 

She said the Hunter New England Local Health District is the state’s largest. John Hunter Hospital is one of the most sued in the state, followed closely by Maitland Hospital. The Hunter has high rates of complaints to the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission.

“My firm handles many medical negligence cases for local people,” Ms Henry said.

“Many local people suffer avoidable death and injury because of preventable negligence, caused by under-resourcing, lack of staff and systemic failures,” she said.

“Our region has a large population but still does not have the proportionate resources that Sydney health services receive.”

“Patients experience delays to treatment, and many are being transferred to Sydney – which is not good enough.”

“The Hunter’s proximity to Sydney does not mean that it does not experience the same issues being faced by other regional, rural and remote communities.”

Ms Henry said John Hunter Hospital is the tertiary hospital for northern NSW. Its emergency department is among the busiest in NSW and the only major trauma centre outside of Sydney. It also has the only children’s hospital and child and adolescent mental health unit outside of Sydney.

“There are continued media reports about staff saying Hunter hospitals are at breaking point due to the demands on them.”  

Ms Henry helped draft the ALA’s submission to the inquiry - one of 700 the inquiry has received.

“Lawyers, journalists and health staff play a vital role in exposing systemic problems in health care but it is up to governments to act to prevent unnecessary deaths.”

“It is one thing to have an inquiry but we need action afterwards – not another report that gathers dust.”

“We need a properly funded, data based, strategy to improve rural and regional healthcare – and the Hunter is a vital part of that strategy.”

Tags: NSW Health, medicine and law Medical negligence