Investment in rural and regional health services will save lives and money

3rd Dec 2021

Increased investment in health services in rural and regional NSW will prevent deaths and injuries caused by under-resourcing, lack of staff and systemic failures, and will reduce the burden of medical negligence claims, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“Sadly, it is legal action and the cost of compensation, or the threat of legal action, that is often the catalyst for health services to change practices or invest in additional resources,” said ALA spokesperson, Catherine Henry giving evidence today to the NSW parliamentary inquiry. Ms Henry is a regional NSW based health lawyer and advocate for healthcare reform who has been practising for 30 years.

“Negligence cases and inquests involving avoidable death and serious injury are too frequent in rural and regional areas,” she said.  “However, we do not know the number of avoidable deaths and injury due to inequitable health resourcing because meaningful data – including data by region – is not publicly available.”

Information accessed via the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 reveals that negligence claims cost the NSW government self-insurer Treasury Managed Fund $69 million during the two-year period from 1 October 2016 to 1 October 2018.

“Increased transparency in relation to data on death rates and adverse events would help patients make more informed decisions, and assist everyone to better understand the issues in the regions,” said Ms Henry. “Public access to this data by postcode – as is available in the United States and England – would help make governments, health agencies and health providers more accountable.”

The ALA made a submission to the NSW parliamentary inquiry into “Health outcomes and access to health and hospital services in rural, regional and remote NSW” making 22 recommendations to address the inequitable health outcomes experienced by people living in rural and regional NSW. Read the submission here.

Tags: Health, medicine and law Medical negligence