An inquiry into regional health services in NSW has heard of tragic shortages in under-served areas. 

The parliamentary inquiry has received almost 700 submissions. Dozens of frontline doctors and nurses have described issues of equipment shortages, overwork, bullying and medical errors. 

“Bullying from senior management is rife,” one nurse wrote anonymously.

“Medication errors due to over-work and high stress levels all caused by management.

“Our patients deserve much better from the health system which is broken and putting nurses registration at risk.”

A submission from the Chamber of Commerce in Wee Waa, near Narrabri, said the region is in dire need of more doctors. 

The town currently has just one local GP.

“Residents are often forced to travel a further 42 kilometres to Narrabri for health care, with some already having travelled 80 kilometres just to get to Wee Waa,” the chamber wrote in its submission.

“This current situation, which has gone on for years, is literally killing our town.”

Gunnedah Shire Council also described a “chronic shortage” of GPs and healthcare services.

“Local GPs are effectively running a crisis medical service and preventative practice is non-existent,” the council wrote.

“Those lucky enough to get an appointment with a local GP face long waits and appointments are significantly delayed or not sought until a health complaint has escalated to a critical level.”

In one case, a visitor said she had been asked to bring bandages to Griffith Hospital for her father.

“They rang me to bring in bandages to dress the lymphoma on his leg as the hospital had none!” they wrote.

“Seemed ridiculous that a hospital had no dressings.”

The NSW Government has pointed to the 130 hospitals it has built or upgraded in the last ten years, and said most patients have positive experiences. 

“Of all those patients who pass through our public hospitals, 99.999 per cent will have a positive outcome,” a spokesperson for NSW Health said.

“Just 0.001 per cent of all patients discharged from hospital will be involved in a clinical incident which results in serious patient harm, known as a sentinel event.

“No health system is without its challenges. Notwithstanding the best efforts of management, health is serviced by people and people make mistakes.”

But the state’s opposition health spokesperson Kate Washington said the government cannot deny how dire the situation is. 

“There are hospitals without doctors, nurses under immense strain and communities really suffering,” she said.

“These are the stories the Coalition Government has been ignoring for years.

“They boast about cutting ribbons on new facilities but bricks and mortar don't save people's lives, they don't mend broken bones, we need people in our hospitals to do that.

“The disparity in health outcomes in rural and regional NSW compared to people living in the cities is enormous and that's something the Government should have been tackling and they just haven't.”

Public hearings will be held from March 19.