Tasmanian Times


Government short-changes health by $1.8 billion

Image of RHH: Flickr

Official national data show the Tasmanian government has diverted over $1.6 billion in health-related GST receipts away from health since coming to power in 2014.

This money has been spent on other priorities, mostly on the budget surplus and the ‘debt-free state’ policy.

The most recent financial data compiled by the Australian Institute of Health and welfare, released two weeks ago, shows Tasmania spent far less than the national average per head on health in every year since coming into government – even though the government is given extra GST so it can spend an equal per-head amount on health.

These figures are among those analysed in a new report, State of Health 2018. It shows how the Tasmanian public hospital system compares with the ret of the country.

In 2016-17, state government day-to-day recurrent expenditure on health was 15.2% lower in Tasmania than in Australia as a whole. Capital expenditure was 38.4% lower.

If the government had funded health services at a national-average level, hospitals and other services would have received $168 million more than they did.

But that is only part of the story. Tasmania also gets an extra $260 million in health-related GST so the government can afford to fund the extra services that this state’s oldest, poorest and sickest population needs. That money has also not been spent on health.

All up, the health-related GST diverted away from health amounts to at least $1.6 billion since the Hodgman government came into government in March 2014.

This savage under-spending continued and worsened the damage begun by the cuts of the Giddings Labor-Green government in 2011.

Between 2011-12 and 2016-17 the number of beds in public hospitals rose by 9.76%. But the number of inpatients rose by 24.87%. The state’s two main hospitals, the Royal Hobart and Launceston General, have now been essentially full for several years. These figures mean that right now – in October 2018 – we would need 350 more fully-staffed beds just to get back to the already-unsatisfactory level of capability we had in 2011, before the cuts began.

Bed block – where patients needing admission remain in the emergency department for extended periods because there is no bed for them – is generally worse in Tasmania than anywhere else.

Of the 287 public hospitals in Australia with emergency departments, bed block at the LGH is the worst. The RHH comes in at number 278.

Research in Australia and elsewhere shows patients affected by bed block have a 30% increased risk of death. In the current Tasmanian situation, that translates to around 80 avoidable premature deaths a year because of bed block.

And there is an unknown number of avoidable deaths in other areas, often because hospitals have such a sharply reduced capacity to treat patients who are not yet serious emergency cases. These delays in treatment mean patients are far more likely to suffer serious complications and, sometimes, to die.

Earlier, an attempt by doctors to conduct an audit of avoidable deaths in Tasmanian public hospitals was blocked by the government.

Read Martyn’s report here:


Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Rob Halton

    October 14, 2018 at 2:39 am

    At this rate Hodgman has always been too weak to serve the public interest by not coming foward over the Public Hospital funding crisis that has been developing ever since it was decided to rebuild the old Royal dump on its present site.

    The election of Denison’s Sue Hickey into the State Liberal scene is a momentous shift for what is generally poor politics that has plagued both Labor and Liberals for more than the last decade.

    In desperation Hickey is the “lone wolf” who represents the public interest, and not that beholden to the Abetzian stranglehold on State Liberal values which discounts the public’s involvement.

    Either Hodgman as Premier has to pull his socks up or suffer defeat as the State Liberals’ representative to serve the public interest.

    It appears likely all sides of State politics will support Hickey’s brave move to urgently address Health Minister Ferguson’s inability to resolve the health issues that are now spiraling out of control, as well as requesting that all Tasmanian Federal Senators rally together in Canberra over the GST breakup facing Tasmania.

    Don’t be surprised if Hickey becomes the regular spokesperson for the Tasmanian government for taking the role of “Premier” seriously because Hodgman is not capable of proper communication to serve the public interest.

    The way its is looking we have not seen a Premier since the days of Eric Reece actually showing leadership. The arrival of the outgoing leadership style of Sue Hickey on the scene is a relief to defend the government’s increasingly lack of public involvement in the everyday issues that are spiraling out of control!

    It won’t be an easy road for the Hickey “leadership style” but as long as she has support, at least from Labor and the Greens, she will definitely outgun those within her own party ranks who fail to support the need for urgent change for bettering the broader public interest.

  2. Margaret McMillan

    October 13, 2018 at 5:23 pm

    I thought that the premises occupied by the Hobart Private Hospital had been sold to them, but I read yesterday that the state government is in negotiations to renew their lease which expires late next year.

    Is it possible that taking back those buildings, some of the issues at the Royal could be solved? I know that staffing is a huge issue, but taking back control of the Hobart Private building could help ease space pressures.

    One thing is for sure: there are going to be tragedies unless something is done. Ferguson seems to be living in a daze, so perhaps Sue Hickey is right, and he needs a rest. What on earth is the point in having a balanced budget if people’s health needs are unmet?

  3. Cameron

    October 13, 2018 at 5:44 am

    Fascinated, utterly fascinated, that Sue Hickey has publicly advised Mr Ferguson to take his blankey and pillow into the nap room and have a little rest. For the next three years, if we’re lucky.

    Firstly, she’s right. Ferguson is managing three important portfolios–Health, Police/Fire/Emergency Management, Science and Technology. (Been pretty quiet on the last one so far, methinks.) The man is not superhuman–no one is. With that workload, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that sooner or later, something has to give.

    Secondly, let’s not forget that the Liberal Party were quite happy to repeatedly lie to the Tasmanian people during the last election campaign–over job losses relating to Labor’s Pokies policy most significantly, but there were probably others. That’s how business is done in the Liberal Party these days, it seems–because Ferguson is doing it again now, trying to convince everyone that spending on health has increased. With what net effect on the provision of frontline health services? Why do so many fundamental issues remain? Why are the states two major hospitals operating at dangerous capacity–at an unsustainable capacity, arguably? Because Ferguson has done nothing to address them. Nothing. And sometimes silence is worse than dishonesty.

    Be man enough, Mr Ferguson, to realise that you need help–although, thanks to the Liberals’ much desired majority not really appearing at the last election, help will be hard to find. Perhaps some stress leave is in order? Just don’t bother reporting to the Emergency departments at the Royal or the LGH–it will take you a very long time to be seen.

    • Russell

      October 13, 2018 at 7:39 am

      Yes Sue Hickey seems to be close to the first real human in the Tasmanian Liberal Party for decades, if not ever. Ferguson has done nothing except smirkingly say that it will all be fixed off somewhere into the distant future, and that they have advertised for more doctors and nurses – who wouldn’t work in such a third world health system anyway.

  4. Kevin Moylan

    October 12, 2018 at 8:12 am

    Informative article Martyn. It helps explain the neglect and contempt for ordinary and working class Tasmanians or those unable to afford private health or mental health cover. They are trapped and beholden to the “Worst public-health system in Australia.” — Australian Medical Association, 2017.

    Martyn, do you have statistics of mental health funding and ‘service delivery’, doctors’ and nurses’ turnover, workers compensation – attrition rates – burnout, Stress/Anxiety Disorders, PTSD, Depression, Suicides? Protection from reprisals for ethical whistleblowers.

    If not, this must be researched to discover the hidden human and emotional toll that made them sick and disabled from working and being maltreated in a totally incompetent and negligent Department of Health.

    WHO cares for our dedicated carers? No-one in TasMANIA! You’re on your own, and don’t dare complain or challenge our nepotistic masters or you’ll become ‘the problem’ and your cherished career is doomed!

    Fly in and fly-out doctors and nurses .. how to destroy continuity of care, staff morale and the ‘multi-disciplinary team’ concept.

    After decades of systemic avoidance, denial, negligence, incompetence, with NO foresight and strategic planning or career enhancing objectives (unless go belong in incestuous Club Hospital) your public and mental health system is imploding, as predicted by some since 1995.

    Professor Ross Kalucy, South Australian Consultant, Mental Health. ‘The KALUCY REPORT’ Feb 1995, states: “Doctors and managers were autocratic and failed to listen.” And still it goes on, unabated and unaccountable to the public health of Tasmanians they chose to serve and obey – in the public interest and for the common good.

    TEN of my nurse colleagues begged Health Minister, Roger Groom, for a Royal Commission into Burnie Hospital and Spencer Psychiatric Clinic, alerting and warning him of CHELMSFORD-like human rights atrocities.

    Why are Tasmanians not marching in the streets? Too lazy .. or too afraid? Don’t know? Don’t care? Not my problem? – yet. Go tell some-one who cares? There is no HELP! Is it each man/woman for themselves?

    The last Tasmanian Mental Health Royal Commission was in 1906. The LUNACY ACT …

    Premier Hodgman and Minister Ferguson have a moral, ethical and legal duty to ‘bite the bullet’ and find some solutions by exploring the past, and where exactly in this living hell did multiple governments fail our loyal subjects? Where has our money gone, and why?

  5. Russell

    October 12, 2018 at 7:05 am

    And where exactly has it all been diverted to? Forestry and on-processing maaates? Fish Farming?

To Top