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Hospital funding cuts

10 September 2019
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for HEALTH, Ms COURTNEY

Last night's ABC story shone a spotlight on the heightened risk for regional Australians accessing hospital services. In it, Tasmania's Auditor-General confirmed that nine out of 10 patients admitted to the Launceston General Hospital spent close to 40 hours in the emergency department. There was a 50 per cent increase in adverse events over the past five years. Mr John Nevaski was one of those people. He was a much-loved father and husband from Turners Beach, who died needlessly and prematurely from a heart attack after being discharged from a horrendously overcrowded LGH emergency department instead of being admitted to life-saving care. Minister, this heart-breaking story and your backyard shame has been paraded on national television. You are responsible for a Health portfolio today that is cruelly cutting more frontline services from our hospitals, those that are already unable to properly protect people in greatest need. Will you stand up to the cruelty of your Cabinet's push to cut funding from hospitals?

 

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question. I too would like to begin, as did the Premier, with regard to Mr Nevaski and his family and extend my deepest sympathies to them. As the Leader of the Opposition said in her opening question, it was very heartbreaking to hear his wife's account. I want to put that on the record.

With regard to the question, I reject the assertion that we are cutting Health. This Government is investing more, 32 per cent of our Budget into Health, up from 25 per cent. I also want to address the assertions with regard to the claims around the AuditorGeneral's report. I am advised that the recently published data for the financial year 2017-18, the same period the Auditor-General's report covered, show that 90 per cent of patients admitted to the LGH had departed the emergency department within 20 hours and one minute. To be clear, this means that only one in 10 waited longer than 28 hours.

Opposition members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.

Ms COURTNEY - While the data is yet to be verified, I am advised that the measure has improved in 2018-19.

We know that patients waiting longer at the LGH is a long-term challenge. In fact in 2013-14 the same measure was worse, with 10 per cent of patients waiting longer than 35 hours. This Government understands we have these long-term challenges and that is why we are investing more in Health. It is why we are employing more doctors, more nurses, opening more beds and making sure we have the right partnerships with our private hospitals.

Dr Woodruff - You're cutting $50 million from the Royal Hobart Hospital.

Ms COURTNEY - This is what this Government is doing, because we understand that patient care is an absolute priority.

Dr Woodruff - It is spin.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff, warning number one.

Ms COURTNEY - I reject her assertion that it is spin.

Mr Hodgman - It is fact, data.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, Premier.

Ms COURTNEY - Forty-four new beds is not spin. This is 44 new beds that we will see at the Royal next year to service Tasmanians. We are employing the nurses and doctors to make sure these are serviced.

Dr Woodruff - How dare you mislead Tasmanians.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff, warning number two.

Ms COURTNEY - Madam Speaker, it is disappointing that the Greens and Labor come into this place and peddle falsehoods.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. I take offence to that on behalf of Dr Woodruff and myself. Nothing we have said in our questions was false or misleading. It is inappropriate and offensive for the minister to say that.

Madam SPEAKER - Thank you. Minister, the member for Clark has taken offence. Leader of the House?

Mr FERGUSON - Madam Speaker, we are in a terrible place if the member wants to take offence at a debating point that has been made by our minister.

Ms O'Connor - We have been accused of lying.

Mr FERGUSON - I suggest that the standing order is very clear that it is there to protect members against offensive words. Seriously, that is very thin-skinned.

Madam SPEAKER - Thank you. It is not a point of order. It is the cut and thrust of debate and it was not personal. Please proceed.

Ms COURTNEY - Thank you, Madam Speaker. I am pleased to be able to talk about the portfolio because we are investing more into Health. With regard to the claims that have been made by the Greens and Labor, I make it very clear that this side of the House is aware of the increasing demand we are seeing in our hospitals - the increasing demand at our emergency departments and the increased complexity of the cases we are seeing, which is why we are investing more into this important portfolio. It is unnecessary for the other side to create fear in our community when our hardworking clinicians across the state are doing a wonderful job supporting Tasmanians. We will always seek to improve what we do and make sure we get better outcomes for our community and I do not apologise for that.