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Australia NSW councils spending millions to subsidise state and federal healthcare, inquiry told

22:20  28 november  2021
22:20  28 november  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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The New South Wales and federal governments are being accused of giving councils no option but to subsidise health services.

Local Government NSW has lodged a late submission to a state parliamentary inquiry in remote, rural and regional health care in a bid to highlight how much the state and commonwealth are relying on small communities.

It lists how much some councils pay every year to ensure their towns do not lose doctors and so their medical centres can afford to stay open.

"Asking us to be responsible for core state and federal responsibilities – for example, health care – is just wrong," Local Government NSW president Linda Scott said.

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"We have small regional councils spending up to four per cent of their total rate revenue on health care."

The submission names 21 NSW councils that feel they have had no option but to chip in, in some instances, hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

Subsidising costs

The Forbes and Carrathool shires in the state's Central West and Riverina fork out a combined total of almost $700,000.

"It is the bleeding obvious — council shouldn't have to do this sort of stuff," Carrathool Shire Mayor Darryl Jardine said.

"However, we like to look after our residents — council feels it is necessary.

"It's over an hour to Griffith. Doctors there have full books anyway."

Many of the councils cover the cost of incentive schemes to help attract staff, pay for or subsidise accommodation, and waive landing fees for medical flights.

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In the Carrathool Shire, the council even pays for a car for the doctor.

At Forbes, the council has helped to build a walk-in, walk-out medical centre.

"If we didn't build a medical centre in Forbes we would not have doctors," Forbes Mayor Phyllis Miller said.

"We also own the Aboriginal medical centre and we've done a lot of work with the Aboriginal people for their health services in Forbes.

"If we didn't do it, it wouldn't get done."

Local Government NSW warns that councils have had enough of spending ratepayers' money on services that should be delivered by the state and commonwealth.

Its submission calls for change "so that councils will no longer need to divert funding from core local government services towards providing incentives to medical practitioners to practice in their local communities".

Fairer care

Cr Miller said she did not begrudge council's involvement in funding local health care, but she did resent the data used by NSW Health to determine where health services were based.

"Some of their population projections are wrong, some of their catchments are wrong," she said.

"Forbes has a catchment of 65,000 people — we haven't got a catchment of 10,000.

"It's time governments stood up and noticed what we've been trying to tell them."

The submission also calls for local governments to be reimbursed for what they spend each year on healthcare.

Ms Scott said that would mean the delivery of vital community services would not be jeopardised.

"We hope ultimately this will be a legislated scheme to ensure that where councils are having to make emergency payments to hold our health systems together, that those payments are refunded by the state or commonwealth government," she said.

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This is interesting!