NSW Nationals MP Adam Marshall backs striking nurses amid ongoing rural doctor shortage – ABC News


NSW Nationals MP Adam Marshall backs striking nurses amid ongoing rural doctor shortage
A New South Wales government MP has launched a scathing attack on the rural health system and publicly backed the decision by the state’s nurses to take strike action.
Former cabinet minister and Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall slammed the reliance on locum doctors in his region during a speech in parliament.
He said three hospitals in his northern NSW electorate have been without a doctor on duty in their emergency departments for multiple shifts in the last week.
"The system we have created has made health about wealth," Mr Marshall said.
"We have been paying locums exorbitant fees to fill in gaps … rewarding people for becoming part-time professionals.
"This is negligent and downright dangerous, and it is not good enough in this day and age."
Mr Marshall also backed this week’s nurses strike as "the last-gasp plea of that workforce, which is also in some parts on the brink of collapse".
The state government has committed to spending millions of dollars in the New England region to upgrade hospitals in town such as Glen Innes, Inverell, and Moree.
But Mr Marshall told parliament those announcements had been met with scepticism from some residents.
"My constituents keep asking me, ‘What is the point of these shiny new facilities when there is no-one to work in them?’" he said.
"And you know what? They’re right."
Mr Marshall served as the agriculture minister for almost three years before he was dumped from the ministry in a reshuffle in December.
Labor has pointed to rural health as a key factor behind its victory in the Bega by-election at the weekend, which has increased the power of the crossbench.
The independent Member for Wagga Wagga, Joe McGirr, said he had not made any demands of the government, but had lodged a notice of motion in the parliament to debate creating a separate Department of Rural Health.
Dr McGirr said evidence heard in the Upper House inquiry into rural health services clearly showed not enough was being done to look after the health of people in the country.
"While the government has responded by appointing a rural health minister – and that is a great initiative – I just think [Bronnie Taylor] needs to have the back-up of a regional health department," Dr McGirr said.
He said he believed Ms Taylor was supportive of the idea and was confident establishing the department would not be costly.
"The first focus would be workforce … to make sure we could get medical staff out to our hospitals, supporting our nurses and allied health," Dr McGirr said.
He echoed Labor’s comments about the importance of the issue to voters.
"They have been very distressed by decreasing workforce, absence of medical services, closure of maternity services over the last few decades," he said.
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