Be Part of the 65th Annual Seniors Festival

The call is out for local organisations to help fill a calendar of engaging and empowering activities for older people during the 2023 NSW Seniors Festival.

Member for Cootamundra, Steph Cooke said the $200,000 NSW Seniors Festival Grants Program supports initiatives that encourage people aged 60 or over to stay healthy, connected to their community and active.

“This is an opportunity to celebrate or build on the diverse skills and interests of seniors in our community in areas like art, sport, health or technology,” Ms Cooke said.

“This year’s Seniors Festival included computer classes, dance lessons and gardening workshops, so it would be terrific to see local groups come up with more creative and fun activities for the 2023 festival.”

Local councils, community groups and not-for-profit organisations are among those who can apply for grants of up to $10,000.

“The Seniors Festival is an opportunity for all seniors in our community to be active, connected and social—no matter their location, language or ability level,” Ms Cooke added.

Minister for Seniors Mark Coure said the NSW Seniors Festival is the largest event of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and has been running for more than 60 years

“These grants reinforce the NSW Government’s commitment to helping older people in NSW stay connected with their community as outlined in the Ageing Well in NSW: Seniors Strategy 2021–2031.”

The Seniors Festival will run from 1 – 12 February 2023. Applications for grants are open now until 1 August 2022.

For more information and to apply, visit seniorsfestival.nsw.gov.au/events/nsw-seniors-festival-grants

NSW Budget Delivers Boost for Cowra Hospital

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Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke has welcomed today’s 2022-23 NSW Budget announcements, which includes an additional $40 million for the Cowra Hospital redevelopment.  

Ms Cooke said this significant upgrade and injection of extra funds will ensure the local community and wider Cowra region will continue to have access to high quality healthcare now and well into the future. 

“The NSW Government is investing in regional and rural healthcare and this significant funding boost will provide enhanced facilities and greatly improve access to health services in the Cowra region,” Mrs Cooke said.  

“This $40 million investment included in today’s Budget will bring the total spend for the Cowra Hospital Redevelopment to more than $110 million, ensuring our community can access first-class health care as close to home as possible. 

“The Cowra Hospital redevelopment is progressing well, with the master plan unveiled earlier this year. The new Cowra Hospital will include upgraded inpatient accommodation and contemporary inpatient and outpatient facilities and new health services, including the hospital’s first CT scanner.”   

The additional funding boost will enable more services and facilities to be delivered, as part of the $110.2 million redevelopment including:  

  • An extra emergency department bay  
  • A second birthing suite 
  • Two additional inpatient beds  
  • Three additional chairs for renal and oncology 
  • Four additional dental chairs  
  • Enhanced training and educational facilities.  
  • Landscaped facilities once the hospital is built, to ensure patient’s their carers and staff have access to a calming outdoor environment 

The concept design for the redevelopment is being finalised and expected to be released for community consultation in the coming months.  

Regional Health Minister Bronnie Taylor said the NSW Government is committed to ensuring the millions of patients cared for in our hospitals and communities each year have the best experience possible. 

“Whether you’re up in the Tweed or down in Eurobodalla, in Finley or in Grafton, at Wentworth or Goulburn, the NSW Government is building better health services for your community,” Mrs Taylor said. 

“Since 2011, the NSW Government has built or upgraded more than 180 health facilities with more than 120 completed in regional and rural areas and even more works on the horizon.” 

Mayor of Cowra Shire Council Bill West has welcomed the additional investment in the crucial project on behalf of the Cowra community. 

“I thank the NSW Government and I acknowledge the tremendous work of Steph Cooke and the support also of Minister Taylor, for ensuring the redevelopment of Cowra Hospital will meet the health needs of our community into the future,” Cr West said. 

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More Than $149 Million to Reduce Costs for Regional Patients

Communities across the Cootamundra electorate are to benefit from an expansion of the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS), with the NSW Government investing an additional $149.5 million as part of the 2022-23 NSW Budget.  

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke has welcomed the funding boost which will see more people in the region being eligible for subsidised travel and accommodation if they need to travel to receive specialist care. 

“We understand travel and accommodation can be expensive and we’re committed to doing what we can to ease the financial pressure on patients,” Ms Cooke said. 

“We know there are a large number of people in the Cootamundra electorate who previously have been unable to receive help under this scheme, who will now be eligible.” 

For the first time, the scheme will be expanded with patients seeking non-commercial clinical trials, high risk foot clinics, highly specialised publicly funded dental health clinics and ocularists to be eligible for assistance. 

The subsidy for people requiring accommodation will be almost doubled, while the NSW Government will also nearly double the private vehicle subsidy rate from 22 cents to 40 cents per kilometre for patients who need to travel more than 100 kilometres for care. 

Minister for Regional Health Bronnie Taylor said the announcement will see a huge weight lifted off so many patients who were previously unable to receive help. 

“We know that when you have to travel for healthcare, the costs can quickly add up, and this can be a huge financial burden on patients and their families,” Mrs Taylor said.  

“If we as Government can do one thing to support people and their families during a time of great emotional and financial distress, this is it.” 

Treasurer Matt Kean said the boost will put NSW well ahead of other states with how comprehensive and generous its patient travel subsidy scheme is.  

“This funding will see our overall investment in IPTAAS tripled over the next four years, with the NSW Government leading the way to assist rural and regional patients in getting the help and support they need,” Mr Kean said.  

“Networked, highly specialised care sometimes requires significant travel in our rural and remote communities and this scheme is essential to ensuring people can access the care while also reducing the out of pocket costs.” 

2225 people in the Cootamundra Electorate were supported last year under the IPTAAS scheme.  

The $149.5 million investment is part of the NSW Government’s $4.5 billion record commitment to the NSW Health workforce with 10,148 full time equivalent staff to be recruited over four years. 

$883 Million More Reasons to Work in the Bush

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke has welcomed the NSW Government’s announcement that it will implement a major regional health workforce incentive scheme in the largest shakeup of its kind ever undertaken in the state.

Ms Cooke said the scheme will be delivered alongside new training and recruitment pathways to build a pipeline of regionally based workers and futureproof healthcare in the bush.

“This announcement is about implementing bold new measures to attract key health workers to work in our local health facilities and retaining that workforce,” Ms Cooke said.

“We know that our region is one of the best places to live, work and play, and this package will encourage graduate nurses, doctors and other clinical staff to not only take up a job in our region but set up their lives here.”

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said $883 million will be spent over the next four years to attract and retain staff in rural and regional NSW by transforming the way health clinicians are incentivised in the bush.

“This package delivers on the NSW Government’s commitment to strengthen the regional health workforce, ensuring that more than three million people who live, work and play in rural and regional NSW continue to have access to high quality healthcare well into the future,” Mr Toole said.

“These incentive packages will be tailored to not only attract more clinicians to these services but help retain those hard working staff and encourage them to put down roots.”

The package will target critical and hard to fill roles to ensure the operation of regional health facilities, including nurses and midwives, paramedics, pathologists and scientific staff, pharmacists and allied health professionals, as well as support and ancillary staff.

Minister for Regional Health Bronnie Taylor said the package will be used to deliver innovative, bespoke incentives for staff so they move to or stay in regional NSW.

“Hard-to-fill, critical roles in rural and remote locations can be incentivised by offering health workers recruitment and retention incentive packages worth up to $10,000 per year plus assistance with accommodation and relocation and some other non-financial incentives,” Mrs Taylor said.

Incentives can include a range of benefits, such as salary boost, sign on bonuses, retention payments, additional leave, assistance with childcare expenses, assistance with transport and housing support, and access to training and education.

In addition to the incentives package, a range of targeted measures are being funded which will support the NSW Government in building a pipeline of future nurses, doctors and other clinical staff who are based in the bush and have the skills, confidence and expertise needed to work in regional health care facilities.

Mrs Taylor said one of these measures is the expansion of training positions for nurse practitioner roles in rural locations that struggle to attract doctors.

“These are highly skilled nursing professionals that can operate autonomously in complex clinical settings. The expansion of these training positions will see people in rural NSW receiving the highest level of quality care and a brighter future in terms of health outcomes,” Mrs Taylor said.

The $883 million investment will include funding for:

  • Tailored incentive programs for healthcare staff to take up and retain positions in regional, rural and remote NSW – which can include a tailored incentive package of up to $10,000 plus additional leave, relocation reimbursement, professional development and study assistance;
  • Increased training positions for nursing graduates, nurse practitioners and medical interns;
  • Expanding rural generalist and procedural training positions;
  • Career development and secondment opportunities for healthcare workers based in regional, rural and remote NSW, including for those based in metropolitan areas to ‘try out’ working in regional NSW;
  • Increased numbers of Aboriginal nurse cadetships, and
  • HECS incentive package for allied health professionals.

Treasurer Matt Kean said the rural and regional workforce boost forms part of the NSW Government’s overall record $4.5 billion investment in more than 10,000 health staff.

“We believe that access to the best quality healthcare shouldn’t be a postcode lottery. That’s why we’re recruiting 10,148 full-time equivalent staff right across NSW over the four years in what is the nation’s largest-ever health workforce boost, and 3,800 of these positions will be in regional areas,” Mr Kean said.

End-of-Life Care and Services Improved in NSW

The NSW Government is improving palliative care and other specialist health services with a $743 million injection into services and staffing, which will see greater comfort and dignity for NSW residents who require palliative care.

Member for Cootamundra, Steph Cooke said the five-year funding is on top of the $300 million the NSW Government invests in palliative care services each year. 

“It is estimated that of the 50,000 people on average that die in NSW each year, 70 per cent could benefit from palliative care services,” Ms Cooke said.

“Today’s announcement will significantly boost funding for end-of-life palliative care, delivering equitable access to pain management services, avoiding unnecessary hospitals stays and providing comfort and dignity to NSW residents at end of life.”

Ms Cooke said palliative care and end-of-life health professionals provide an untold amount of comfort to patients and families and she welcomes the 600 additional professionals being added to the NSW workforce.

“Our health professionals and dedicated palliative care staff provide so much comfort to those entering the final stages of their life,” Ms Cooke said.

“I am pleased that this funding boost will allow us to support staff and services to continue that high-quality and compassionate care into the future.”

The $743 million funding over five years includes $650 million to:

  • employ an extra  600 nurses, allied health professionals, doctors, and support staff
  • boost hospital capacity and implement best-practice models for supportive and palliative care
  • improve access to pain management services for patients with life-limiting illness, to help patients and their family and carers
  • improve services for people with late stage chronic and degenerative conditions, and cancer
  • further strengthen outpatient and community health services
  • support consumer choice and excellence in end-of-life and palliative care
  • strengthen virtual care, transport and equipment programs
  • improve partnership with non-Government organisations, primary care and aged care services. 

NSW Health Workforce to Receive Historic Boost

The NSW Government has announced a record 10,148 full-time equivalent staff will be recruited to hospitals and health services across the State over four years, in the nation’s largest-ever health workforce boost.

Member for Cootamundra, Steph Cooke said the $4.5 billion investment over four years made possible by the NSW Government’s 2022-23 Budget is intended to relieve pressure on existing staff and ensure there are appropriate levels of health staffing for its health infrastructure projects.

“We acknowledge the tireless efforts of our local health heroes throughout the pandemic and are proud to make this record investment to give them the support they need,” Ms Cooke said.

“This $4.5 billion investment will boost the ranks of our health workforce, helping to give relief and support to our hardworking existing staff, provide the staffing profile for increased elective surgeries and ensure we continue to deliver quality health care closer to home.”

“We are ensuring that our health heroes get the respite and back-up that they need, while our communities have access to the healthcare they deserve.”

7,674 more workers will be recruited in the first year, including nurses and midwives, doctors, paramedics, pathologists and scientific staff, pharmacists and allied health professionals, as well as support and ancillary staff who ensure the continued operations of NSW hospitals and the wider public health system. 

“The NSW Liberals and Nationals have delivered 170 hospitals and health facilities since coming into Government, with a further 110 underway,” she said.

“This funding ensures new and upgraded hospitals such as the Murrumburrah-Harden Health Service will have the workforce to provide services to our community today and well into the future.”

A strong feature of this health workforce boost is the record investment into NSW Ambulance, with $1.76 billion announced to recruit 2,128 new staff and open 30 more stations across NSW.

NSW Government Lifts Public Sector Wages and Recognises Health Workers

The NSW Government has today announced a new public sector wages policy to provide increased pay for public sector employees including nurses, teachers and paramedics.

Member for Cootamundra, Steph Cooke said the new two-year policy will provide among the highest public sector wages growth in the country with employees offered a 3.0 per cent remuneration increase per annum in 2022-23 and 2023-24, with a possible further 0.5 per cent on offer in 2023-24 for employees that make a substantial contribution to productivity-enhancing reforms.

“This provides for remuneration increases of up to 6.5 per cent over two years under the new policy,” Ms Cooke said.

The policy will apply to new industrial agreements that are struck from 1 July 2022.

The NSW Government announced an additional one-off payment of $3,000 to be provided to employees in the NSW Health Service in recognition of their work on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The payment covers paramedics, midwives, cleaners and all other permanent staff employed by the NSW Health Service.

“The $3,000 one-off payment to health workers recognises the contribution of a workforce that went to extraordinary lengths during the pandemic,” Ms Cooke said. 

“The new wages policy continues the NSW Government’s record of strengthening frontline services and ensuring that NSW can continue to deliver the best services in the country.”

Ms Cooke said that in the current economic climate, the increase in wages was a fair and sustainable policy decision.

“NSW is currently enjoying the lowest unemployment on record. To attract and retain the best talent, it is important to maintain competitive wages – and in the context of a strong and growing economy this two-year increase to wages is an affordable and sensible policy.”

The new wages policy has been developed to support productivity-enhancing reforms and modernisation of the public service. 

Additional pay increases are available for workplace reforms that deliver better outcomes for the public.

Further details will be announced in the June State Budget.

Boost for the NSW Ambulance Service

The NSW Government has announced a $1.76 billion boost to frontline emergency care to deliver 2,128 new recruits and 30 more ambulance stations as part of the NSW Government’s 2022-23 Budget.

Member for Cootamundra, Steph Cooke said the record investment will ensure the community has access to a quality Ambulance service for years to come.

“With ambulance services across the country experiencing unprecedented demand, the NSW Government is ensuring our communities and our paramedics are well placed for the challenges ahead,” Ms Cooke said.

“In addition to 30 new ambulance stations, this record funding will deliver extra paramedics, ambulance support staff, nurses and doctors, increasing capacity from call centres to call outs. NSW Ambulance will have the largest paramedic workforce in the country.”

“This is great news for our community. We rely on our local paramedics and now they’ll have additional support to continue the invaluable work they do for us.”

The $1.76 billion over four years will provide NSW with 1,857 extra paramedics, 210 ambulance support staff, 52 nurses and eight doctors.

In this Budget, the NSW Government will deliver 30 new stations including at Warilla, Kincumber, Lisarow, Gateshead, Swansea, Cherrybrook, Raby and Narellan in the coming year, with 22 more stations to come over the following three years.

Record Number of Graduate Nurses Welcomed in Murrumbidgee

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke has welcomed the news that an extra 65 newly graduated Registered Nurses (RNs) have this week commenced their careers in the Murrumbidgee Local Health District.

Ms Cooke said the graduates will make a huge difference to the region working at local hospitals including Coolamon, Cootamundra, Gundagai, Harden, Junee, Narrandera, Temora, West Wyalong and Young.

“These extra nurses will bolster our local health workforce, ensuring that residents of our towns and villages can live healthy, full lives,” Ms Cooke said. 

“Nearly all of the graduates have chosen to relocate from metro areas including Western Sydney, Newcastle and the Sutherland Shire, and it’s wonderful that these graduates have chosen to begin their careers in our small communities.”

Minister for Regional Health Bronnie Taylor said the influx to the local workforce follows an earlier recruitment boost in February, which saw 54 graduate nurses commence in roles across the District.

“A further 49 newly graduated Registered Nurses will also come on board in August, making 2022 the largest ever graduate intake for the District,” Mrs Taylor said.

“It is our workforce that makes the NSW public health system the envy of the world, and it is wonderful to see these newly graduated Registered Nurses choosing to begin their careers in rural and regional NSW.

“As someone who spent the best part of their nursing career at a regional hospital, I know the skills and experience these new nurses will gain will set them up for success into their future nursing career.”

District Director of Nursing and Midwifery Ms Christine Stephens said this year’s intake of graduate nurses is more than double compared with last year’s recruitment.

“We are pleased to provide additional employment opportunities to so many graduates and it’s been incredibly gratifying to see so many fresh faces joining the fold,” Ms Stephens said.

“We warmly welcome both local and metropolitan graduates to the District. For those relocating to MLHD they bring their families and friends to our wonderful regional communities and we are delighted to showcase what the district has to offer.

“Previous graduates have applauded the learning opportunities that regional facilities across Murrumbidgee Local Health District have offered, and the reward of working as a part of our local communities.”

Throughout their first year, graduates are provided with opportunities in a variety of clinical settings to ensure they gain a range of experience and consolidate skills and knowledge developed during their studies.

Graduate nurses will begin employment with MLHD in 2022 at the following local hospitals: Batlow, Boorowa, Corowa, Coolamon, Cootamundra, Culcairn, Deniliquin, Finley, Griffith, Gundagai, Harden, Henty, Holbrook, Junee, Leeton, Lockhart, Narrandera, Temora, Tumut, Tumbarumba, Wagga Wagga, West Wyalong and Young.