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. 

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. 

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.

Cowra Hospital Master Plan Released

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke is strongly encouraging the Cowra community to have their say on the $70.2 million redevelopment of Cowra Hospital with the master plan released today.

Ms Cooke said the redevelopment, which will be built behind the existing hospital on the campus, will ensure patients, staff and the Cowra community have access to the high-quality health services they need close to home.

“As the Cowra Hospital redevelopment takes shape, it is crucial the community takes this opportunity to provide their feedback on the master plan to the project team,” Ms Cooke said.

“The Cowra Hospital master plan outlines the vision of Health Infrastructure for the redevelopment which includes upgraded inpatient beds, contemporary facilities and new health services including the hospital’s first CT scanner.”

The master plan released for the Cowra Hospital includes:

“I continue to advocate in the strongest possible terms to ensure we deliver a hospital that the Cowra community both expects and deserves,” Ms Cooke added.

“The feedback of the community, in addition to that of Health Clinicians and staff, is an essential part of this.”

Minister for Regional Health Bronnie Taylor said the existing hospital campus provided the perfect location for the upgraded Cowra Health Service, which will include new on-site parking for staff, patients and visitors.

“The project team has been working with Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) staff and clinicians as well as local stakeholders who have provided valuable input into the master plan,” Mrs Taylor said.

“This is an important project for the Cowra community, and everyone to view the master plan and provide their feedback on how we can best meet the health needs of the region.”

Four community information sessions will be held in the Nguluway Room at the Cowra Shire Council over the next fortnight where community members can drop in to view the master plan and ask the project team questions.

In-person community information session times include:

Thursday 31 March, 9.30am – 11.30am

Tuesday 5 April, 9.30am – 11.30am

Thursday 7 April, 4:30pm – 5:30pm

Wednesday 13 April, 11:30am – 1:30pm

Online webinar sessions times include:

Tuesday 5 April, 5 – 6pm

Thursday 7 April, 4.30pm – 5.30pm.

The community is encouraged to register their interest by booking on (02) 9978 5432.

Construction is on track to commence in 2023 and the community will continue to be updated as planning progresses and we move towards construction. 

The Cowra Hospital redevelopment is part of the NSW Government’s record $10.8 billion investment in health infrastructure over four years to 2024-25, with nearly a third of the capital allocation in this financial year going towards regional and rural health facilities. To register for online information sessions and to find out more about the redevelopment, visit www.cowrahospitalredevelopment.health.nsw.gov.au.

Milestones Abound At Temora Ambulance Station

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke has congratulated three Temora-based NSW Ambulance Officers who have been recently recognised with National Service and Ambulance Long Service and Good Conduct medals.

“It is an honour for me to congratulate and thank three local paramedics who have called Temora home for some time,” Ms Cooke said.

“It is particularly special for me to be doing so in the same year Temora Ambulance Station marks 70 years of operation from the same location.”

Ms Cooke said the National Service Medal was established in 1975, initially to recognise 15 years of service by members of the Australian Defence Force, Australian Police Forces, and Fire and Ambulance Services. A Clasp is awarded for each additional 10 years’ service with eligibility for the medal has gradually expanding to include individuals who have participated in part-time and volunteer service, members of the Australian Protective Service and Correctional and Emergency Services. It is considered to be Australia’s most awarded civilian medal.

The Ambulance Long Service and Good Conduct Medal is issued to all permanent NSW Ambulance staff upon reaching 10 years of service with the organisation.

Ms Cooke has congratulated the following NSW Ambulance Officers:

Intensive Care Paramedic and Station Officer Mr Chris Doughty: Mr Doughty commenced with NSW Ambulance in June 1986, training in Albury before postings to Griffith and Cooma before settling in Temora in 1987. Mr Doughty has been presented with his 2nd Clasp, Ambulance Long Service and Good Conduct Medal representing over 30 years’ service, and his 2nd Clasp, National Service Medal representing over 35 years’ service.

Paramedic Mr Shaun Thomson: Mr Thomson commenced with NSW Ambulance in July 1996, serving his probationary period in Mascot, Engadine, Bondi and Rockdale before postings to Menia and Temora. Mr Thomson’s father also served the Temora community as an Ambulance Office from the late 1960’s to early 1970’s. Mr Thomson has been presented with his 1st clasp, National Service Medal representing over 25 years’ service.

Paramedic Mr Taz Rundle: commenced with NSW Ambulance in October 2003, working at Summerhill and Menia with a decade in Kings Cross before moving to Temora where he now calls home. Mr Rundle received the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 2014, and has been presented with his 1st clasp, National Service Medal representing over 25 years’ service.

“I am sure the community of Temora will join me in thanking Mr Doughty, Mr Thomson and Mr Rundle for their ongoing contribution to the local community,” Ms Cooke said.

“They are among many fantastic local Paramedics who serve our small communities, and we are grateful to them for calling the Cootamundra electorate home.”

Work on West Wyalong Ambulance Station

Paramedics and Steph Cooke stand in front of an ambulance.

West Wyalong Ambulance Station will get a refurbishment under the NSW Government’s $232 million Rural Ambulance Infrastructure Reconfiguration (RAIR) program, delivering a better work environment for paramedics.

The upgrades include new roller shutters to the vehicle plant room, refurbished office and administration space, refurbished medical storage and staff amenities as well as other internal upgrades.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke welcomed the improvements which add to the ongoing investment in to ambulance stations across the electorate.

“I have met with our local paramedics and they kindly showed me around their station. It’s clear they are passionate about their work, but it’s also clear the station requires upgrades to ensure it meets their needs,” Ms Cooke said.

“The West Wyalong Ambulance Station services a huge area with busy roadways, thriving mining and agriculture sectors, meaning the demands on local paramedics are extensive.”

“These upgrades will help modernise the ambulance station, ensuring our paramedics have the facilities they deserve to keep doing their vital work.”

“The station is housed in a council-owned building and this investment from the NSW Government is removing the cost burden from local ratepayers.”

“This work joins new ambulance stations at Cowra, Grenfell, Cootamundra, Ardlethan, Harden and Coolamon, bricks and mortar testament to our commitment to health infrastructure.”

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said works are expected to commence later this year on the upgrade to the ambulance station following a competitive tender process. 

“The NSW Government is committed to investing in rural and regional health infrastructure to support better health outcomes for local communities,” Mr Hazzard said.

“Our paramedics need the best possible workplace to provide emergency medical care, and the infrastructure improvements will make a real difference to their working environment.”

The RAIR program is the single largest investment in regional NSW Ambulance’s 126-year history, with 24 new or upgraded ambulance stations already delivered or under construction as part of the $132 million Stage 1 program, with another $100 million worth of ambulance assets being delivered throughout rural and regional NSW under Stage 2.

In 2020-21, the NSW Government is investing more than $1 billion in services and capital works for NSW Ambulance. This includes $27 million of funding for 180 new NSW Ambulance staff across NSW, being the third tranche of the June 2018 commitment to recruit 750 additional paramedic and control centre staff over four years.