Labor is calling on the state government to reveal exactly when and how many rapid antigen tests will be released into the community as the Far South Coast continues to experience a chronic shortage.
NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns was in Bega on Sunday, January 16, to speak with members of the Health Services Union and NSW Ambulance paramedics working out of South East Regional Hospital.
He was also joined by Eurobodalla obstetrician Michael Holland, Labor's preselected candidate for a Bega byelection.
Mr Minns said rapid antigen tests (RAT) being "too expensive, or unavailable, or both" was a "massive failure" of the NSW government.
"No-one in this state is saying the government could stop COVID or Omicron, but given how serious it is, given the complete turmoil that has thrown out public hospitals into, the few levers you do have responsibility for must be done perfectly.
"Preparing our public hospital systems, making sure testing centres and tests are available, are essential.
"We would have to be the only advanced economy in the entire world that didn't distribute rapid antigen tests for free, or at least put a price cap on them, to make sure people can access them. It's a big failure."
When asked what the solution was to get improved access to RAT kits, Mr Minns said there were "no shortcuts".
"At the end of the day, the preparation work needed to be done before the rise in Omicron cases. And unfortunately the NSW Premier can't say he wasn't warned."
Mr Minns said the availability of RATs was only one part of the equation, with the pressure already felt by our hospitals and health sector even prior to COVID has been compounded due to the "failure to prepare".
Mark Jay from the HSU said his members were "really struggling".
"A lot of healthcare workers are really under the pump with excessive workloads, and short staffing due to the restructure and they're struggling to keep their head above water," Mr Jay said.
"Our members would like extra resources in our hospitals, and to provide safe and adequate staffing levels, to improve the services around our district."
Dr Holland highlighted that the stresses on the health system in the district existed prior to COVID-19, "but they've now been exacerbated".
"We've got health teams that are increasingly tired, increasingly stressed, working extra shifts, called on to do double shifts, and working on their days off.
"Paramedic crews have increasing demand at the moment and because of that increasing demand there's a delay in response times.
"The crews are working with workload fatigue. There's increased management demand on their services and they share the same problems as the nurses, allied health and midwives within that hospital.
"There's been inadequate attention, planning and resourcing for service planning, workforce recruitment, administrative support, models of care, and community engagement unfortunately."
Mr Minns said his party's warnings to the government had unfortunately come to pass.
I hate to say but the fact is preparation work was not done the NSW government.
"We warned the government in the week prior to Christmas that we were seeing severe pressure on the public hospital network and the government said we were bedwetters and that we were unnecessarily scaring the population of NSW.
"They should have treated it as an early warning for the severe pressures we are seeing today."
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