A new policy encouraging NSW hospitals to provide "culturally appropriate spaces" for Aboriginal patients and families will bring the state into line with national standards, Health Minister Brad Hazzard says.
NSW Health recently updated its statewide policy to include guidelines on providing culturally appropriate care for Aboriginal patients, a spokesman said on Tuesday.
"The policy recognises that all vulnerable patient groups have specific needs and emergency departments should seek to cater for the specific needs of their local communities," the department said in a statement.
While the document does not mandate separate waiting rooms for Aboriginal patients it calls for a "culturally appropriate space" within each hospital to be identified.
Hospitals may also display Aboriginal artwork as another way of being more inclusive and welcoming.
The move was welcomed by the Public Health Association Australia.
“All healthcare providers need to consider the cultural dimension of the services they are providing, and embrace culturally safe care which is determined to be safe by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and their families," said Carmen Parter, PHAA Vice-President.
“This includes making hospital waiting rooms a welcoming and supportive environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which will help to build trust between them and their healthcare providers and enhance cultural sensitivity in medical treatment."
A trial on the mid north coast showed a 50 per cent reduction in the number of Aboriginal patients leaving early from emergency departments after cultural awareness training for staff was introduced.
Mr Hazzard says many hospitals have already determined they want to introduce a culturally appropriate space.
"It isn't mandatory in the sense they've got to do it, it's mandatory in the sense you've got to think about what is culturally appropriate (and) what might help the local community," he told 2GB radio.
"It may not just be Aboriginal - it could be any of the local community."
The policy brings NSW into line with national standards, Mr Hazzard added.
"What they're saying is Aboriginal people still get absolutely appalling health outcomes."
In the state's west, the Wiradjuri language and imagery has been incorporated into the Forbes and Parkes hospitals.
"The policy is flexible, allowing local health districts to carry out initiatives in consultation with their local Aboriginal community to make their hospital settings more culturally inclusive, in ways that best suit the community," a NSW Health spokeswoman said.
Opposition health spokesman Walt Secord disagrees with the policy and says the state's 80 emergency departments are already under enormous pressure.
"I think it's a bridge too far," he told 2GB.
Additional reporting AAP