Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Liberal health pledge cooks the books

The Liberal Party has artificially inflated its election health package by over $200 million by including Commonwealth funding in its totals – but without saying so.

The Labor package, nominally $560 million, does not include federal funding. But when the Liberals’ nominal $753 million spend is put onto equal terms, it is likely that the Labor policy is worth more.

After this was revealed, Health Minister Michael Ferguson admitted, and sought to justify, including Commonwealth funding in his party’s totals.

Close examination of the Liberal election documents also shows most of their promised extra beds would not be in place until after the 2022 election. They would have to be re-elected twice for this to happen.

The Commonwealth pays for 45% of the cost of treating every patient and there is a further 7% from the Department of Veterans’ affairs, private health insurance, workers’ compensation and accident insurance. As well, there is 100% Commonwealth funding for many of the most expensive drugs.

At the Royal Hobart Hospital, the package promises an extra 946 staff for 250 beds at a cost of $299 million over six years. However, they say elsewhere that the first of these beds will not be opened until a year after the rebuild is complete. That pushes it out to 2021, three years from now – assuming no further delays. Although a few of the staff may be recruited beforehand, most will come much later.

That concentrates the staffing cost into the last three years, and particularly towards the very end of that period as beds are gradually opened.

The average salary-only staff cost is $106,000 per head per year, an average ranging from senior consultants to cooks and cleaners. That means the total salary costs for the extra staff at the RHH would be $100,276,000 per year. With on-costs (mainly superannuation) included, that figure is likely to rise to around $140 million.

At least half of that money, though, comes not from the state itself but from the Commonwealth and various patients’ insurance cover. That means the cost to the state is likely to be around $70 million a year, or an absolute maximum of $210 million over the three years and probably substantially less.

But the Liberals’ document claims to be putting in $299 million. The only way of reconciling these figures is if they are including Commonwealth funding in their claimed totals, which the Labor Party package does not. Ward fit-out costs are listed separately from these figures and not included in the $299 million.

There are similar results for the north and north-west of the state.

Another problem with the Liberal package is its concentration on Hobart and its almost complete neglect of the northern half of the state.

Apart from the rebuilding program at the Royal Hobart Hospital, which it inherited, the government has not initiated any significant hospital building. The Launceston General Hospital, in particular, is in urgent need of much more space.

The Liberals have promised a somewhat derisory 40 beds, most of which will not be in place until 2023.

Senior doctors have again cast doubt on the ability of the government to recruit large numbers of new staff, even if they want to. Positions already open have not been able to be filled, particularly in the north-east. Unless more senior staff are put into place quickly we can expect more departments in Tasmania’s main hospitals to lose their training accreditation and to be ever more incapable of dealing with sick people needing care.

In the meantime, the problems at the RHH will continue and get worse for at least the next three years. Budget restrictions and administrative incompetence meant the government failed to create enough temporary beds before the hospital’s former B block was demolished.

The result has been a litany of crises, scandals and patient deaths, some of which have been the subject of damning coronial findings.

The hospital has one of the most over-stretched and chaotic emergency departments in the country. National figures show that even before last year’s flu season, it was the third-worst major hospital in Australia for bed block – that is, for patients needing a bed on a specialist ward but being unable to find one.

Since then, leaked figures from within the hospital, published earlier on the Tasmanian Times ( HERE: Hospital emergency crisis revealed in leaked document ), show how much worse the situation has become in the past few months.

*Martyn Goddard is a public policy analyst based in Hobart.

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  1. Tony Stone

    February 15, 2018 at 10:54 am

    #9 … “no hard drugs or gambling you say ? Come on mate. These are tribal cultural pursuits and our heritage.”

    That would only be the case if you were an irresponsible clone, as neither are health issues, but rather reflections of uselessness and a refusal to take responsibility for their lives.

    Doesn’t matter which party gets in, the outcomes will be the same as their only interest is in propping up the profit growth of the medical and pharmaceutical industry, not good health outcomes.

    Better health for the population can only be attained by proper dietary education and lifestyle approaches. Nothing else will work and never has.

    The drug industry has been claiming for decades they have, or are close to having, the methods to stop disease, yet illness and disease are on the rise, especially biological breakdowns.

  2. John Hawkins

    February 14, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    We used to call people who behaved like this “spivs”.

    It is such an evocative and descriptive word for those who indulge in sharp practices.

  3. MjF

    February 14, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    Hmmm……is that code for still getting it up ? ?

  4. Robin Charles Halton

    February 14, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    #9 MJF, put it another way, a trip to the doctor occasionally for a prescription renewal and Tattslotto risk taking is enough to keep me comfortably rolling along!

    Other pleasures still help me function “normally”, how about you!

  5. john hayward

    February 14, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    Public health is a huge portion of the Australian economy and so it’s a source of chronic pain to true-blue conservative pollies to see so much of it squandered on people unlikely to vote for them. While much of health industry funding has already been hand-balled to cronies in private health insurance and private hospitals, much more needs doing to restore the public health systems of the feudal era.

    John Hayward

  6. MjF

    February 14, 2018 at 11:42 am

    no hard drugs or gambling you say ?
    Come on mate. These are tribal cultural pursuits and our heritage.

  7. Robin Charles Halton

    February 14, 2018 at 8:56 am

    Voters are wasting their time if they think that public health outcomes will suddenly improve, they wont!

    As a part of human society, some of us are lucky to make it to old age without major incidents but some are not so lucky in picking up inherited genetic defects!

    Work and personal accidents claim others, as well as lifestyle choices that affect health.

    We all must try to remain fit and hopefully healthy, potentially staying out of hospital for as long as possible and enjoying life while we can.

    Over dependence on the health system is an unlikely scenario.Maintain a reasonable state of fitness, no hard drugs and no gambling!

    Don’t depend on political miracles, it won’t happen, perhaps a bit more towards education this time around as health should be more about personal responsibility!

  8. TGC

    February 13, 2018 at 10:14 pm

    #5 … “But all parties must lift their game and nominate proper people – not mendacious riff raff.”
    But.#5 knows that this will never happen so it becomes of vital importance that non-“mendacious” individuals nominate for Parliament.They are thick on the ‘ground’ on TT – they must step forward.

  9. Simon Warriner

    February 13, 2018 at 9:08 pm

    re #5 … John, because a, if not the, primal determinant of party candidature is an ability to willingly conflict the interests of the voters and the party, it follows as surely as night follows day that the quality of political party candidates will inexorably tend towards the mendacious riff raff end of the spectrum. “proper” people are not inclined to engage in that conflicting of interests are are thus gradually eliminated from the pool of prospective candidates over time.

    The solution to the uninspiring choice of party political candidates is to be found outside the party system in the form of those prepared to stand as independents.

    If “we” want more and better independents to choose from then “we” will need to do something to make it happen because right now there is precious little to inspire “proper” people to nominate as independents.

  10. John Hawkins

    February 13, 2018 at 6:06 pm

    One can never expect to read this type of accurate and damming reporting in our Murdoch-owned Tasmanian newspaper, the Mercury.

    That is why we are an introverted backward state run by third rateers of no consequence who would never get a real job.

    I do not have the answer.

    But all parties must lift their game and nominate proper people – not mendacious riff raff.

  11. Luigi Brown

    February 13, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    The Liberals don’t need to say or promise anything about Health (or anything else). They stand on their record. It’ll be just more of the same.

  12. Russell

    February 13, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    Lies, lies and more lies.

    Over the past four years the Liberals have done NOTHING but be caught out lying and at total odds with warnings and facts repeatedly afforded by the Health System hierarchy.

  13. Robin Charles Halton

    February 13, 2018 at 10:34 am

    How many time have repeatedly said over the years the Old Royal rebuild within the CBD clutter is just another public hospital facility that will never live up to expectations for developing into a state of the art facility, no a hope!

    There is simply no room to expand, although the consulting room block across Argyle St road above Wellington Court have provided some extra space.

    Pity the new Creative Arts centre across Campbell St was not included in the rebuild, any clown associated with proper future infrastructure planning would have known that the block across the road would have been useful especially to cater with the increasing need for mental health care of patients.

    From now on the ways things are structured towards modern public health, there is no hope of improvements also taking into consideration the increasing patient load due to the lifestyle of bad choices epidemic, bad diet, obesity leading to diabetes.

    No matter who forms government, health services and hospital facilities cannot possibly be expected to ever catch up with public expectations.

  14. Chris

    February 13, 2018 at 10:17 am

    How many people are living in tents at the Elwick Showground and what effects are these conditions having on their mental health?

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