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NSW Premier Chris Minns and NSW Minister for Health Ryan Park. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Simon Bullard.

Ryan Park commits to workforce despite $7bn budget shortfall

The NSW health minister has said he's 'determined' to boost the healthcare workforce following the discovery of a $7bn state budget deficit, prompting cost reviews.

On Monday, NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey said Labor inherited the largest debt in the state's history and delayed the budget until September.

The state's newly sworn-in Minister for Health, Ryan Park, told Nursing Review it would continue to strive for better healthcare and a larger workforce despite its debt.

"It won't be easy to undo 12 years of neglect' of our state's health and hospital system," Mr Park said.

"But the new government is determined to make a start, and boosting our healthcare workforce will be at the centre of that effort."

Minns said it would set up a Royal Commission into the state's healthcare after a Health Services Union (HSU)'s report revealed 'critical issues' in the system.

The report said it was 'cracking under the pressure of a post-pandemic increase in demand for services.'

"The special commission of inquiry will play a critical role in ensuring health funding goes further and farther in delivering for our taxpayers and those who require the services of our health system," Mr Park said.

"Guiding that process will be the surgical care task force."

Mr Park said the NSW health department would have 'more to say about the terms of reference in due course.'

On Monday, Mr Mookhey said the 2023-24 budget was delayed by three months as the government reviewed what services could be cut.

Among the budget pressures, it needs at least $380m to renew the temporary contracts for over 1,100 nurses, which are due to expire in 2024.

"We're inheriting significant economic challenges and difficult to avoid pressures on the budget, including unfunded government programs," Mr Mookhey said.

"We have high inflation, higher interest rates, historic debt – this is about painting a full and honest picture of what is really going on.

"These challenges can't be fixed overnight. It will take time, and there will be tough choices." 

Mr Mookhey said he was confident Labor had the 'right rescue team' to ensure it could focus on rebuilding essential services.

During the election, Minns strongly advocated improved nurse-to-staffing ratios in NSW's public hospitals. 

He also said he would install 300 additional beds at Rouse Hill Hospital in Sydney's Northwest over a $700m fund.

Moreover, Labor pledged to help 2,000 healthcare students pay for their degrees by providing a $12,000 study subsidy.

Nursing, midwifery and allied health students would be eligible if they promise to work in the healthcare sector for at least five years.

"We're committed to bringing skilled people into our healthcare system in NSW," Minns said in March.

"Labor will make choices to repair our essential services - we'll make tough choices to protect the budget, and we'll choose to end pork barrelling across the state."

HSU chief, Gerard Hayes, told Nursing Review he approved of the Minns government committing to a Royal Commission task force to repair to state's healthcare system.

"We need to look at the whole system and see where the movement of expenditure is," Mr Hayes said.

"Because one area can positively affect the other – it may be one area of concern, but if none gets resolved, there's no change in the system.

"Clearly, much more needs to be done, but the government's moving in the right direction."

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