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Elective Surgeries at the Launceston General Hospital

17 November 2016

Ms DAWKINS question to MINISTER for HEALTH, Mr FERGUSON

[10.31 a.m.]
As a part of your plan to reduce the elective surgery waiting list, you are sending public elective surgery patients to private hospitals in Tasmania and in Melbourne. Serious concerns have been raised about follow-up care with post-operative patients. We are aware of patients presenting to the emergency department at the LGH with no paperwork and no after-surgery care plan with infections and other issues.

These failings have the potential to be a matter of life and death. Are you aware this has been occurring? There are eight orthopaedic surgeons in Launceston with capacity to complete surgeries yet patients are still being operated on at enormous additional expense to the Tasmanian health system in private 
hospitals.

Why were 40 knee and hip surgery patients who did have post-operative care seen by a gastric sleeve surgeon who travelled from Hobart to the clinic rather than using the orthopaedic surgeons who work in Launceston?


ANSWER
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Bass for her question. I will come to the last part of her question first, before the earlier and more general points. After-care is an essential part of any care provided to a patient, regardless of what hospital in which they received their surgery, whether it is a local public or private hospital, or whether it is a patient in that approximately 340 patients who received their care in an interstate private hospital.

I provided some information on notice to a member in the other House yesterday - or today, I am not sure when it is being presented. We have seen some excellent results for our patients. We have also acknowledged that after-care is not just an issue for patients who have received their surgery interstate. We have also identified that it has been an issue, at times, for patients even within our public hospital system, particularly for patients who require returns to hospital. This is an ongoing issue for all levels of the health system. I acknowledge that.

I have also taken some 'soundings' from local surgeons. I have indicated to them that if we can improve the quality of after-care that we provide in any future purchasing arrangements we will do that. The reason we do that is because we want to put patient care at the very forefront of all of the decisions that we make in health.

I want to make a couple of points about why the Government has chosen to go this way. In the 2016 calendar year we have seen significant additional commonwealth funding available to our public hospital system. From a policy point of view, the Hodgman Liberal Government has placed our patients, particularly those who have been waiting years for surgery. We have people who have had their surgery, who had been placed on the waiting list when Ms Giddings was the minister for health. They waited for years to get their surgery. We have seen some wonderful results. 

I hope the members will welcome the fact that in the 2015 financial year Tasmania saw more people receiving elective surgery than ever before. In my 42 years of living, we have never seen so many people receiving surgery. Nineteen thousand Tasmanians received surgery. This Government is for those people. This Government is for the people who have been made to wait. With the incessant negativity from the Labor Party, they just do not care about patients who have been made to wait. 

I am very pleased to report that from a policy point of view the Government provided the extra money in this order of priority: number one, Tasmanian public hospitals were our first priority and had first access to the money. Funds that could not be absorbed in that time and through capacity, including theatres that were running at capacity - we opened two new theatres at Launceston, one new theatre at the Royal. With that capacity taken up the second priority was local -

Ms Woodruff - But there are no beds for the patients so they cannot use it.

Mr FERGUSON - You are wrong. We opened 40 beds at the LGH. The second priority was Tasmanian private hospitals and the third priority was interstate private hospitals.

I am very pleased to report that this Government saw 19 000 elective surgeries completed in that year, an all-time record, and 3355 more than was done in the previous year. I hope all members will share with me the delight that the waiting list today is lower than it has ever been.

Ms White - It is because people cannot get on.

Mr FERGUSON - Ms White just said that is because people cannot get on. Ms White has misheard. We have had 3355 more procedures done than the total number completed during 2014-15. You cannot do so many extra surgeries 
without the extra funding that the Government has provided, without opening the two extra theatres at the Launceston General Hospital, without opening the extra theatre at the Royal, without establishing the Mersey Hospital as a dedicated elective surgery centre.

I hope members will welcome that we have seen the number of people who are overdue for their surgery reduce by more than one half, approaching two-thirds.

I thank members for their interest in this issue. The Government will always focus on continuous improvements using our record funding and our strong health reform agenda.