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Elective Surgery Fail A Terrible Record For Health Minister

21 Dec 2017

Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens’ Health spokesperson

The Royal Hobart Hospital's record for providing elective surgery for people who urgently need it is the worst in the country, according to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data. Health Minister Michael Ferguson has long-praised his achievements in dealing with the elective surgery waiting list, but it seems his best effort is a miserable one.

Health Minister Michael Ferguson has failed to act on the long-known crisis in the Tasmanian Health Service executive management, and has squeezed the hospital budget down every year. His term as Minister has resulted in this appalling record of failing the most needy southern Tasmanians.

Minister Ferguson's single-minded focus on Category 3 elective surgeries, the least urgent category, means he dropped the ball on Category 1 elective surgeries which are most urgent. In 2016-17 only 73% of patients at the RHH who needed surgery within 30 days received it, compared to the average of all major hospitals at 95%.

For Category 2 patients at the RHH, who need surgery within 90 days, only 46% got it, compared to the national standard of 85%. This is by far the worst record in Australia. In this category, only 3 of the 30 major hospitals are below 70%.

The minister has pointed often to the reduction in the number of people on the overall elective surgery waiting list as evidence of success in tackling the problem, but he's focussed on the cheap and quick procedures, instead of the difficult and life-threatening ones.

It's a shameful record, but one that could be salvaged. The Premier could act immediately to recall parliament before the election, and get on with making the legislative changes needed to reform the broken THS management. If his Minister has failed to do the basics to manage an operating hospital system, Premier Hodgman should step in and do his best to remedy the situation.