Concerns over NSW's rural health response

·2-min read

NSW paramedics say the state government's response to a damning report into rural health falls short of what's needed for country ambulance services.

Meanwhile, doctors want country practices given immediate tax breaks to help keep GPs in rural areas.

The state government on Thursday backed in full or in principle 41 of 44 recommendations made by a parliamentary inquiry into health services in regional and rural areas.

This includes working with the federal government on a 10-year strategy to boost the number of regional and rural healthcare workers, and a state review of current arrangements.

Australian Paramedics Association NSW on Friday welcomed the government's commitment but said regional ambulance services needed more resources.

Some towns only had one to two ambulances and it was "absolutely crucial" NSW invested in alternative vehicles for non-urgent care and transport, the union says.

"We're concerned the government are shying away from a once-in-a-generation opportunity to really address the root causes of health inequality across our region," Acting Secretary Scott Beaton said.

Australian Medical Association NSW said there was a "desperate need" to address shortfalls in regional healthcare across the state.

"Government must act now to address the workforce shortages that are contributing to poorer health outcomes for residents in the bush," AMA NSW president Michael Bonning said.

Dr Bonning said one way to help regional GPs cope - including ones still grappling with the aftermath of destructive and deadly floods - would be to give payroll tax exemptions for medical practices.

Revenue NSW has recently flagged it could broaden payroll tax, which Dr Bonning said would be "devastating".

"Given the current GP shortage and the ongoing difficulty in attracting doctors to this specialty, the payroll tax exemption would be an effective and immediate way in which NSW could address the crisis in primary care," Dr Bonning said.

The Country Women's Association of NSW also welcomed the government's response to the report.

"We feel after yesterday's government response the impetus is there to develop a rural health system that delivers the care these areas deserve," president Joy Beames said.

The damning report handed down in May exposed a system at breaking point, with cooking and cleaning staff handling nursing duties in rural hospitals amid staff shortages, pregnant women travelling hundreds of kilometres to give birth, and elderly patients dying on bathroom floors.

All but three of 44 recommendations were agreed to.

Ms Taylor on Thursday would not support a review of rural mental health services or establish a body to investigate alleged cover-ups and medical errors, as the report recommended.

"It is my absolute priority to ensure that no matter where you live in our state, you have access to health services you need and deserve," Ms Taylor said.