Nurses in Northern NSW are struggling, says Lismore MP Janelle Saffin.
Nurses in Northern NSW are struggling, says Lismore MP Janelle Saffin.

‘HORRIFIC’: Our nurses ‘emotionally, physically shattered’

The "horrific" challenges facing Northern Rivers health workers have been highlighted during question time in parliament.

Lismore MP Janelle Saffin asked deputy premier John Barilaro whether the health system treated people in regional areas as "second-class citizens".

"The Deputy Premier has described in evidence to the parliamentary inquiry into rural and regional health that it is horrific," she said.

"Nurses in my community are leaving their shifts emotionally and physically shattered, and a patient died tragically at a local hospital while no doctor was physically present."

Health Minister Brad Hazzard interrupted and said: "That is not true. There is a fortune going into it and we are getting staff left, right and centre."

The Speaker called him to order.

Mr Barilaro acknowledged that "no health system is ever perfect, regardless of the investment".

He went on to speak about how much was being spent on building new hospitals and improving existing ones across the state.

Shadow Minister for Rural Health Kate Washington called a point of order, saying: "The Deputy Premier appears to be missing the point.

"The member for Lismore asked about nurses and the people who are within the hospitals.

"Bricks and mortar do not save lives."

Mr Barilaro was allowed to continue.

He spoke of the 5000-plus new nurses who were going into the system, and said 45 per cent of those would be in regional and rural areas.

"If you want to attract the best doctors and the best nurses, you have to build the best world-class facilities," he said.

"But do we have issues in the bush in relation to service delivery and attracting GPs? The answer is yes.

"But the issue around GPs is not just a state issue; we will have to work with the Federal Government when it comes to GPs in the bush."

The Speaker repeatedly cautioned members of the Opposition, including Jenny Aitchison, Ms Washington and Trish Doyle.

Ms Washington continued to interrupt and the Speaker ordered her to leave the Chamber.

Speaking later, Ms Saffin said there were "hundreds of harrowing stories about a system that is over stretched and under resourced".

The Parliamentary Inquiry will begin public hearings next month, with several expected to be held rural and regional NSW.

Ms Saffin said she was hopeful that a hearing would be held in the Lismore electorate.