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Issues at the Royal Hobart Hospital

19 September 2017
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Ms WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for HEALTH, Mr FERGUSON

[10.14 a.m.]

In that last six days at the Royal Hobart Hospital's Emergency Department, there have been two category 4 escalations, four violent events and all elective surgeries have been cancelled again.  Fewer than 20 per cent of patients are being admitted in the required four-hour period and staff working conditions are described by HACSU as 'crushing'. 

The Coroner pointed out your Government's failure to resource the Royal Hobart Hospital's staffing levels to national benchmarks as the reason for a patient death in 2015.  Since then, you have increased the screws on the public health budget.  You hid the devastating findings of an expert review into the mismanagement of emergency care at our major hospitals for six months last year and you still have not publicly responded to those recommendations, the Medical Staff Association having warned about your failure to plan for the beds crisis at the Royal for two years.

We wrote to you in April and urged you to meet with them to plan for the acute winter crisis, but you did not respond to us or them.  You promised to fix the broken health system.  Do not you agree your legacy will be a health system that is in a starkly worse state than when you took over?

 

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for the question.  It gives me an opportunity to say, 'No, we are fixing the health system that was ruined by Labor and the Greens.  Have we done enough?  No, we have not.  Have we made progress?  Yes, we have.' 

The questions from the Leader of the Opposition to the Premier and hinted at in the question from Ms Woodruff to me now seem to overlook the fact that this state and, indeed, the whole country right now is in the grip of the worst influenza epidemic in recent years.

Ms Woodruff - You were warned about.  That's what planning is about.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.  The member has asked a very lengthy question, which I allowed significant latitude for and the minister will be given the opportunity to answer it.

Mr FERGUSON - Do I have to remind the member of the impact that this is having on the Tasmanian community.  It is a real struggle.  It is a struggle for aged care homes, which have experienced outbreaks; we have seen deaths of higher than usual numbers in our aged care facilities, which are largely run in the not-for-profit sector.  We have seen the death of a child interstate.  We have had interstate health ministers admitting that they are not coping.  This is a serious issue for hospital systems around the country.

Thank goodness for a Hodgman Liberal Government that is opening beds.  Thank goodness for a committed dedicated workforce, one that is working very hard under these difficult circumstances.

Opposition members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.

Mr FERGUSON - Every member of this House should be applauding our staff for what they are doing, including opening the beds that the Leader of the Opposition has been rubbishing this morning.  Those beds are now open; they are serving the community and they are helping.

I was also asked in the question about the escalation policy.  The Premier has done a very thorough job of answering this part of the question.  We have implemented escalation policy in this state that was recommended to our Government.  In the report, including the state report, which the member falsely claims the Government hid and has not responded to, the presence of the escalation plan now puts lie to those claims.

Ms Woodruff - A cheap fix.

Mr FERGUSON - It has to also be said to the member who now interjects that Labor, it turns out, received the same recommendations.

Ms O'Byrne - You've been in government for nearly four years.

Mr FERGUSON - The member who now interjects, the Deputy Leader - who through her incompetence in wrecking the health system was promoted to be Labor's Deputy Leader - minister Michelle O'Byrne to implement an evidence-based escalation plan so we could deal with spikes and demand in the Monaghan Report.  If you do not know about the Monaghan Report, you should check your bottom drawer.

Ms O'Byrne - Has the situation worsened under you?  Yes.

Mr FERGUSON - The fact is the health system is working very hard to deal with this increase in demand.  Additionally, in the question, it was put to me that all elective surgery has been cancelled.  That is not true.  The member should not say things that are not true.

Ms Woodruff - That's not what the Medical Staff Association said this morning on ABC radio.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.

Mr FERGUSON - The staff have worked together and have agreed that for non-time critical surgeries it would better to support patients to require medical beds.  I hope the member supports that as they are clinical decisions not made by the minister and certainly not made by the Greens health spokeswoman.

Ms Woodruff - You could have planned for this, minister, with the staff.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.

Mr FERGUSON - Those are not decisions that we should be making on the floor of this House.  These are decisions that are far better made by qualified people working together. 

Regarding elective surgery, we have cut the list by a third.  We have the waiting list at the lowest level it has been in the lifetime of anyone here.  That is an amazing result.  It means that we now have people who can expect to wait for shorter lengths of time for their surgery.

We are right now in the middle of the busiest winter flu season that the state has experienced in recent years.  The member who claims to have all the answers on health has no answers on health.  The public record has to be repeated here.  It has to be put on the record again and again.

Opposition members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.

Mr FERGUSON - I can feel the discomfort over the other side.  Under the Liberal Government we are opening 120 beds right now with permanent funding to sustain them.  Under Labor - zero beds, not one, but there is a wish by members opposite to put sick people in hotel rooms.  Hotel influenza - seriously, do you really think that is a safe plan?  I would say it is not.  The vice-president -

Ms White - Sit down.

Mr FERGUSON - I will not sit down until I finish reminding the member of the fact that Labor's own vice-president has named you -

Madam SPEAKER - Order.  The Minister promised me he was winding up.

Mr FERGUSON - Labor is very good at talking about it but it does not have a solution to address the issue.