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Coroner Confirms RHH Under-Resourcing Putting Patient Lives at Risk

18 May 2017

Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens' Health spokesperson

The Coronial inquest into the 2015 death of a Royal Hobart Hospital patient found it could have been prevented. The death was caused by government failure to resource the hospital properly, with staffing levels well below the national benchmark.

It took Tasmanian Health Service management more than nine months to respond to the failings, despite being told by senior staff that overcrowding, increasing patient numbers and low staff levels were causing “potential and actual patient harm”.

Two years later, and mid-way through a redevelopment, the RHH is still over-crowded and under-staffed.  The short-term patch the Liberals put over the problem two years ago did not stick.

The situation is alarmingly worse today. Bed block occurs at the Royal Hobart Hospital regularly, making the Emergency Department unsafe for patients who are unable to access an inpatient bed in time.  

The Health Minister has been repeatedly warned by clinical staff, in the starkest terms, about the huge overload on the RHH emergency department this winter.  Tasmanians are yet to see any response, or proposed fix from him.

Minister Ferguson has overseen a reduction in RHH beds during the redevelopment build, and still not responded to recommendations from the Review of Access to the Emergency Care at the Launceston General Hospital and the Royal Hobart Hospital. 

That review identified “structural, process and cultural barriers” to good health care in Emergency Departments, but the Minister’s been sitting on it since August last year.

Tasmania has a larger proportion of the GST than the rest of country because our population is older, sicker and poorer. The Liberals should be allocating more of that revenue to the number one issue for all Tasmanians – staying healthy for longer.

Last year, the Hodgman Government budgeted less on hospitals than was spent in the year before that.  This is reckless and irresponsible.  

Tasmanians expect next week’s State Budget will include serious additional funding to Tasmania’s public hospitals.  Without new money for acute hospital beds at the RHH, the winter flu season will see the hospital in crisis, and patients’ lives put at risk.