We know how strongly Bronnie Taylor feels about the health system.
She described herself in her inaugural speech as a “proud nurse.” She spoke of studying nursing at the University of Sydney as “a decision to this day I am so grateful for,” adding “I knew I had found my niche when I started caring for people affected by cancer.”
Bronnie spent eight years working as a clinical nurse specialist in palliative care, both in the city and the Monaro, three years as a clinical nurse consultant in cancer care, and four years as one of the original Breast Care Nurses for the McGrath Foundation. The final 18 months of her 20 year career with NSW Health was as the Director of Cancer Services for the Southern NSW Local Health District.
Bronnie told The Nats’ Leader magazine “It is my absolute priority to ensure that, no matter where you live in our state, you have access to the health services that you need and deserve. We know that regional NSW is the absolute best place to live and our government is taking meaningful action to provide safe and high quality health care services in the bush.”
In December 2021 Bronnie was appointed NSW’s very first Minister for Regional Health, and to mark the first anniversary of that appointment, she spoke recently to 7 News Riverina.
Bronnie described the appointment as a dream come true, and said she was “so incredibly proud of what we have achieved over the past 12 months.”
“I used to pound around the floor at Cooma hospital on the wards and say I really wanted to be a health minister one day because I wanted to make a positive change,” Bronnie told 7.
Bronnie spoke about the role of the regions in the wider health organisation
“It’s so important and I think that’s why I’m really pleased this position now exists,” she said. “We have got a bit of a hub and spoke going on now where our major referral hospitals, like Wagga Base, are doing amazing things and incredible things. You know, our surgical wait times are actually better than the city.”
Bronnie spoke about the crucial role of staff within the health system, saying that calls for better pay and conditions for nurses were definitely being heard.
She added “I will say as well that the great majority of time our system works really well.”
Bronnie said how she really wanted to see registrars completely trained in our big regional hospitals, and how she didn’t think that was unattainable.
Asked about regional GPs, Bronnie said the Murrumbidgee model, launched in Wagga Wagga in 2020, had been a resounding success. “But I don’t have the lever to pull. The federal government does, Bronnie said. “The question that needs to be asked of them is why, when NSW as a state wants to go ahead with this, why won’t you let us?”
Bronnie said another issue that needs to be tackled is the cost of locums, who can earn $3,000 a shift. “This is really pretty serious, because when you’re looking at what locums are earning per day in our public health system, it’s taxpayers’ money that’s paying for that,” Bronnie said.
It’s an issue, Bronnie said, that has to be addressed by the federal government. “It’s a bidding war across the states. What I’d really like to do is say ‘we’re going to cap this locum fee at X amount.’ That’s the right thing to do. But if I go alone in NSW and do that they’re all just going to go to Queensland or Victoria and we’ll have even more of a shortage. We need to have a national approach to this so that everybody’s on the same page,” she said.
In terms of the money being paid to locums, Bronnie said she would rather use that to pay the doctors we’ve got and to say to them “Thank you so much for being with us, thank you so much for staying in our communities, thank you so much for being part of our health system.”
In terms of what the future holds, Bronnie said “I really want to keep going with this job for a good while yet. I love it, I’m passionate about it, I feel it. I love the health system and I will defend the health system. It’s been incredible to me and incredible to so many people.”