GRIFFITH'S already overburdened health system is set to be stretched even further after the state government announced massive cuts to locum overtime payments this week.
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner announced on Monday overtime payments to health workers and contract staff would be on the chopping block in order to achieve an $89 million cut in the state's hospital budget.
With Griffith's hospital one of the most reliant on locums to make up staffing shortfalls in the state, there are fears the city will be among the worst affected.
"It's very hard to attract doctors to regional towns and when we don't have enough doctors in the emergency department then we get locums in," local health advocate and Griffith councillor Anne Napoli said.
"I understand times are tough and although locums are expensive, how do you put a price on the health and safety of the community?"
The Area News revealed earlier this year that Griffith Base Hospital spends about $4 million a year on locums.
Cr Napoli said cutting overtime payments could put patients at risk as there would not be enough doctors to treat them at the hospital.
"They (the state government) don't understand regional and rural areas if there aren't enough doctors in an ED we can't just go to another ED 15 or 20 minutes away like in the city our next ED is in Wagga and they'll be struggling too," she said.
Murrumbidgee Local Health District board chair Lynda Summers said the board was working to reduce the city's dependency on locums so patients wouldn't be affected by the cuts.
"There will be a focus on reducing the use of locums by permanently recruiting to vacant position to create a more sustainable workforce," she said. "This is evident in Griffith with the successful recruitment of Dr Pankaj Banga as the director of medical services.
"Work is continuing on securing other medical staff to fill long-standing vacancies at Griffith Base Hospital."