The gradual withdrawal of Commonwealth health funding over the last few years exposes the dire state of Tasmania’s public health system. This Federal Budget continues that trend.

Provision for Tasmania’s hospitals has gone backwards. Funding to address elective surgery waiting lists and for clinical redesign, to enable the State’s hospitals to treat more patients, both end on 1 July.

While welcome, the Mersey Hospital funds will only maintain the status quo, with the lump sum payment only covering the operating costs of the hospital that the Commonwealth would otherwise have paid directly.

The Liberals have kept the Medicare rebate freeze for GPs and specialists for yet another year, with allied health practitioners another year longer. Last year GPs said they were at breaking point, and more are likely to have to increase their charges above the frozen bulk-billing rate.

This may be a disaster for many Tasmanians who can’t afford the increasing ‘gap’ on surgery visits. It’s terrible news for people trying to stay well, and out of, overburdened hospital services.

Most regional Tasmanians will continue to pay the gap costs. This is on top of the recent loss of health services, and travelling further and waiting longer to see a health clinician.

The Federal Liberals are now trying to parade themselves as shoring up Medicare and our public health system. They can’t fool Tasmanians who have been watching the money they spend on health costs rising every year, at the same time as they’ve seen regional and allied health services wiped from the State.

The Federal Liberals’ attitude towards Tasmanian health will mean their State colleagues must fill the void.  The Treasurer and Health Minister will have to address it in the upcoming State Budget, because we’ve been left in the cold by Canberra.

Last year, Minister Ferguson reduced spending on the hospital system, and Tasmanians have seen chaos, emergency wards at breaking point, and bad headline after bad headline since. 

With the withdrawal of Federal funding for elective surgeries and regional services, as well as preventative health, Tasmania is left further exposed.  Minister Ferguson will need to lobby hard in Cabinet to repair some of the damage caused by the devastating cuts the Liberals have made to the public health system at the State and Federal level.