Proposed NSW watchdog 'bureaucratic layer'

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Calls for an independent health watchdog have been rejected by the NSW health minister who says it was labelled a "bureaucratic layer" in discussions over its value to the taxpayer.

The state government last week backed 41 of 44 recommendations made by a parliamentary inquiry into health services in regional and rural areas, but hosed down hopes for a new regulator.

Brad Hazzard told a budget estimates hearing on Wednesday the government made the decision after asking "does it make sense" to establish the oversight body at a cost to taxpayers.

The damning report, first handed down in May, found cleaning staff had worked as nurses during staffing shortages in the bush, and elderly patients had died on bathroom floors.

In its response to the recommendation, the government said the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) and NSW Ombudsman were already empowered to investigate rural health complaints.

"The question was whether or not there was a necessity for another bureaucratic layer," Mr Hazzard said.

"Does it make sense to have three different directions that you would send people, at a cost to taxpayers?

"Or was the issue about making sure that people who had a concern that I've gone through all the other processes and didn't feel satisfied, whether they could then go to one of the other two organisations."

A decision was instead made to improve communication between the HCCC and NSW Ombudsman for aggrieved patients, Mr Hazzard said.

On Tuesday, Regional Health Minister Bronnie Taylor made similar statements to Mr Hazzard, saying she wanted to work within existing frameworks, rather than inventing a new body.

Mr Hazzard said he spoke with his rural counterpart at least once a day, but said he could not remember the particulars of that discussion with Ms Taylor.

The minister also took questions on staffing levels, after nurses and paramedics took industrial action in recent months claiming their conditions had been degraded.

In June the NSW government committed to recruiting 10,148 full-time hospital and health staff over four years, with 7674 to be recruited in the first year.

The government said the extra workers would ease pressure on those fatigued by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was still too early to give a precise answer on how many new workers had been hired since the announcement, deputy secretary of People, Culture and Governance at NSW Health Phil Minns told the hearing.

"Our workforce is not static. It's dynamic and changing daily," he said.

Some 1227 people were terminated by NSW Health from November through to recent weeks, due to vaccine non-compliance, he added.

Health staff also worked more overtime hours in the last financial year than before the pandemic, he said.