We asked all the candidates across all the electorates in the Illawarra the same question about health services.
How will you address healthcare pressures for Illawarra residents?
Cath Blakey (The Greens): As a Greens MP for Wollongong I will push the NSW parliament to introduce enforceable nurse to patient ratios so that shift by shift there are sufficient nurses and midwives available to care for patients. After 12 days in the Wollongong Hospital maternity unit in 2018 I know how vital nurse to patient ratios are to see that patients have adequate care. Now there are reports of only 1 midwife for 15 patients, and that's not even including the babies! Patient care is suffering and nurses are burning out. I have pledged my support to the Nurses and Midwives Association Award Claim that includes 1 nurse for 3 patients in ED and 1 to 4 on a ward and 1 to 3 in maternity. In the Regional, Rural and Remote Health Inquiryin May 2022, Liberal and Labor MPs voted together against the inclusion of a recommendation calling for the implementation of nurse to patient ratios. On 25th March we need to see parliamentary seats change so that legislated nurse to patient ratios can be passed - the Greens will be pushing whomever forms government to legislate ratios. I'm also pushing for the next NSW government to lift the public sector wage cap that was introduced by the Liberals in 2011. NSW has the most poorly-paid paramedics in Australia, and it's not uncommon for highly skilled health workers to work part-time in retail because they get paid more there. We are pushing for a 15% payrise for nurses, midwives and paramedics. A payrise will help boost staff retention and entice qualified staff back to the sector. Paid placements for nursing, midwifery and paramedical students is also part of our Greens plan to attract new public health workers, by reducing a significant cost of living pressure.
As your Greens MP I'll be pushing for the establishment of public community health centres where medical staff are directly employed by the Illawarra Shoalhaven Health District to provide fee-free access to GPs, allied health professionals, dentists or mental health professionals.
By improving hospital care, GP access and preventative health initiatives the Greens will help end bed block so paramedics can be where they are needed instead of waiting in queues. The Greens health care plan includes increasing the number of paramedics employed in regional NSW, expanding the Intensive Care and Extended Care Paramedics programs and introducing a 24/7 patient transport service which would decrease delays to patient care and free up ambulances for emergencies. Ambulance and patient transport services should be provided at no out-of-pocket cost to patients, but under the Liberals the ambulance fee has grown to a minimum cost of $327 up to a maximum of $6,668.
Read The Greens plan to rescue our public health system: https://greens.org.au/nsw/healthcare2023
Kit Docker (The Greens): Speaking to many healthcare professionals across the Illawarra, it's clear that many are having to face dangerous and unsustainable working conditions. What is most disappointing is that these pressures are completely avoidable.
Supporting the essential workers in our public hospitals will be an absolute priority for me if elected. I will work with my fellow Greens crossbenchers to push whichever party forms government to back the NSW Nurse and Midwives Association 2022 award claim in full.
In addition to backing mandated nurse to patient ratios, we will be looking to scrap the public sector wage cap and provide nurses, midwives and paramedics with an immediate 15% pay rise. This pay rise will be vital in retaining and attracting the workforce needed to support our healthcare system.
Too many people across the Illawarra cannot afford to pay for a visit to a GP and the recent reduction of bulk billing practices is already having serious impacts on many families. We know that prevention is more effective and less costly than intervention, which is why I will fight to establish public primary care clinics in our region. This will provide the community with access to GP's and other allied health professionals at no costs.
Finally, we need to think big and bold when it comes to mental health. Mental health services have costs that are too high and waiting lists that are too long. I will fight to establish free, publicly-owned and community-managed mental health services across the Illawarra.
Jamie Dixon (The Greens): The Greens see the solution to our local healthcare woes in rebuilding the fractured work environment of our front line workers. We need to respect, recruit, resource and retain the highly skilled people currently in, or close to the sector. Becoming a nurse, midwife or paramedic takes years of study, and the years of experience on wards is impossible to replace.
The Greens will abolish the public sector wage cap, and give all nurses, midwives and paramedics an immediate 15 per cent wage increase, and appropriate indexing into the future. We will see the Health Services Amendment introduced to parliament last November seen through, to mandate nurse to patient ratios in line with the levels advised by the NSWNMA.
Our state needs to show the same levels of respect and remuneration as other states, not only because it reflects the hard work and dedication shown by our health sector, but to prevent the growing drain of experienced staff to other states and other sectors. We also need to invest significantly in preventative healthcare that is accessible to everyone. This includes establishing community health centres so that people can see a GP or other health professional for free, when they need advice and support, to prevent the current level of presentations to Emergency Departments. Amongst our other allied health initiatives is the legalisation of medicinal cannabis, to reduce the current over-medication of many ailments, and to transition patients away from opioids.