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Acute Crisis Care in Tasmanian Hospitals

Parliamentary Activity - Thursday, 25 August 2016


Ms WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I want to report some of the reflections I have had on during my recent visits to a number of our public hospitals.  My intention is to visit all public hospitals in the state and to meet with staff.  My overwhelming impression has been one of incredible commitment from staff, a tremendous commitment to people in the workplace, to their patients, and to the community they serve.  It is very much a culture of service and dedication.

The people I spoke to are in senior management.  Some of the people who were showing us around had been working in the hospital for 28, 35 years.  They are people who have been the sole champion for their ward, or their hospital, for many years.

I noticed a couple of concerning things in the paediatric areas of the North West Regional Hospital and the Launceston General Hospital.  In both hospitals, what struck me was the difference between the paediatric areas and the rest of the hospitals, in the conditions for staff, patients and families. 

On the day that I visited the North West Hospital paediatric ward, I spoke to a number of staff who were in an extreme state.  They were harried, frustrated, one of them was working a double shift, they did not have cleaning staff and they were cleaning the wards.  They were looking after patients, had no time to stop for a cup of a tea, and barely enough time to answer the phone.  It really struck me, when one of the nurses told me of her absolute desperation, that the only time that they had in the ward these days was to look at red buttons, and listen out for the beeps on the machines.

They were reduced to total acute crisis care.  The paediatric wards I have visited in other parts of the state had so many more resources, and are far more able to provide the range of care that we should be offering for the treatment of sick children and their families.  The North West Regional Hospital is quite notable upon entering, because it has a beautiful new entrance area.  It is very well appointed in some places, but in the paediatric ward they did not even have the money to put curtains between many of the beds.  There was no privacy for children or their families.  The nurses described themselves as being the poor cousins in the hospital system.

This is similar to the LGH paediatric outpatient ward that was moved there, they said temporarily, 16 years ago.  It was not built for purpose and not suitable.  There are many more patients now, and that space is totally, poorly inadequate for managing the appropriate clinical care pathways of the children admitted as outpatients.

On the day that we were there, the corridors were full of people working - workmen with ladders shrouded in plastic, and bits of ceiling opened up.  People and patients were inching past.  The normal, everyday entrance is the corridor.  There is no reception area, other than a corridor with patients and children in prams, their families waiting in line in a corridor.  They then go to other overcrowded waiting rooms, and the nursing staff have to jimmy up extra space in the corridor.  This is not temporary.  It was temporary 16 years ago.  The problem is that there is no plan, and there is absolutely no interest from senior management to do anything about the situation. 

Although we have a wonderful general outpatients ward, the children are being completely bypassed.  There is no plan to improve the paediatric ward, and no plan to make a better connection between inpatients and outpatients.  Doctors have to rush from several floors away, in a totally different part of the hospital, to make the connections between the inpatients and outpatients.

To call the ward dishevelled is to say something congratulatory, so we have to do better than that and there is an opportunity for the minister to take some action on it.

Time expired.

The House adjourned at 5.37 p.m.