First published September 11

Key Tasmanian health groups have released a detailed set of policy recommendations against which all parties’ pre-election hospitals policies can be judged.

The document outlines a pathway to turn around the state’s ailing public hospital system over the next term of government and begin the task of ensuring Tasmanians have hospital care that is at least equal to that enjoyed by all other Australians.

The policy has been endorsed by the Royal Hobart Hospital Medical Staff Association, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, the Health and Community Services Union, the Community and Public Sector Union and the Tasmanian Patient Group.

“On almost all measures, Tasmania has the worst public hospital system in the country,” the paper says.

“It will take longer than a single parliamentary term to bring this state’s services up to the standard enjoyed by other Australians but this paper presents a way to begin that process.

“For many years, staffing and other resources have been run down, failing comprehensively to meet sharply rising demand. Given the generous funding allocated to the Tasmanian government through the GST in recognition of the health needs of our population, there is no excuse for these failures of policy and administration. Short and long term strategies need urgent development with continued attention to implementing these in order to support the Tasmanian health system to meet future demand.

“This paper calls for at least 200 extra beds, 80% of them acute, to be established in Tasmania’s public hospitals over the next term of government.

Most of these beds should be established in the Royal Hobart and Launceston General Hospitals. Because of rising demand, and the massive current backlog, this will be only the beginning. By 2022 a similar number of new beds is likely to be needed, on top of the 200, to allow Tasmanian hospitals to deliver the standard and level of care this state’s people need and deserves.

“This will mean additional staff at all levels, from doctors, nurses and allied health personnel through to ancillary staff such as clerks, IT specialists, cooks and cleaners. The notional divide between frontline and non-frontline staff is misleading and damaging: all are needed in a properly functioning hospital system.

“Recruitment is currently a major challenge: Tasmania is known to have an unsatisfactory public hospital system and is not seen as an attractive place to work. The only way of reversing that perception is to improve resources and to address decisively the seriously poor working conditions hospital staff now face.

“Much more physical space will be needed in Hobart and Launceston. Planning should begin now for new building at the Launceston General Hospital; and it must be realised that within five or six years, the rebuilt Royal Hobart Hospital will be full. Planning for another stage of rebuilding that hospital should begin soon.

“Much more attention should be given to hospital avoidance programs and out-of-hospital services, including disease prevention, population health and community-based primary care and mental health services, which are also inadequately resourced for the task they face. It is acknowledged that unless significant, strategically targeted work is undertaken in this area, avoidable demand will continue in the acute health sector.”

Download joint health policy …


*Martyn Goddard is an Independent health policy analyst

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