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Labor Matter of Public Importance – Health

19 September 2018
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I find it concerning to speak in a Chamber where people are slinging personal insults across the room. That is really disgraceful and it brings a level of disrespect into this  place that we should all try to rise above.

This is, as everything is in health, a complex situation. It is on the Liberal Government's head from the first two years in Government, when it made a crucial decision to remove $210 million from the Health budget.

There are reasons they had to do that. One was to cut back on the public delivery of health services in this state, but the outcry was so extreme and the pain was so huge that they were forced to put $100 million back in. They are still trying to recover from that.

Subsequent budgets have not been keeping up to the real costs of running the hospital system. It is not keeping up with the real rise in numbers of patients attending the emergency departments. In the past three years we have had high numbers of people in the emergency departments at the Royal Hobart Hospital and Launceston General Hospital. It has been on the front pages of the Mercury, the Advocate and the Examiner on numerous days, sometimes multiple days in a week over the past two-and-a-half years.

That is what happens when you take money out of essential services.

The Government has promised to put $145 million into funding 106 more beds at the Royal Hobart Hospital, but $145 million over four years is only $36 million a year. We are still suffering from that deficit.

The Greens had an alternative budget this year. We funded those beds.

Mr Ferguson - You did. You actually had a budget.

Dr WOODRUFF - We do it every year, Mr Ferguson.

Mr Ferguson - I agree.

Dr WOODRUFF - The Greens do it because we know it is important to talk about what you are prepared to cut. It is all very well to talk about what you are prepared to fund but you have to get the money from somewhere so we made a deliberate decision to defund Tasracing. We made a deliberate decision to force Federal Hotels to pay a community service support levy. We made a deliberate decision not to put money into pokies.

We made those decisions so we could fund the beds that are required.

This issue at the moment in the Royal Hobart Hospital is about mental health patients. The Mental Health Council and its members stood together just last week and made a plea to this minister, to this Liberal Government, to make sure they continue to work towards preventive health and early intervention, the step model of care. We must have a functioning emergency department.

I do not let this minister off the hook about that fact it is not functioning properly at the moment. The withdrawal of money from the health sector, the starving of services in regional areas, the failure to plan for mental health stepped care facilities four-and-a-half years ago means that people are now forced to go to the emergency department because there is not appropriate care for them in their home, there is not appropriate care for them in the community. We need intervention so that people do not end up in the emergency department. It is not the place for a mentally unwell person. It is not the place for a person in distress -

Mr Ferguson - Hang on, it might be appropriate for some.

Dr WOODRUFF - Okay, no, I will withdraw that. It is not the place for the majority of people. It is not ever going to be a spot that people want to land and stay in. The minister agrees with that statement.

Bring on that money now. Bring on Rethink Mental Health now. Do not hold on to the dollars because it is only going to get more difficult for people if they do not have those services. It is not just about having beds. You are in Government, minister. It is about funding. It is about providing clear pathways for general practitioners and primary care providers. People in the community need clear pathways so they know who to go to and where they are going to be sent.

That is the job of this minister. You need to bring it on, minister, much faster because you have sat on that money and you have not rolled it out in the mental health space as fast as you should. It is your responsibility, your duty and to the greatest extent your fault that the emergency department is bursting with people in mental health distress.

We cannot leave those people in a place like that, because it is not a place for people who are mentally unwell.