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Labor Matter of Public Importance - Health

16 October 2018
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, although this MPI was listed 
as health, this has moved into a discussion about mental health. We can 
all accept that one of the key aspects of concern that has been raised 
about the situation for people accessing Royal Hobart Hospital emergency 
department is people in acute mental health distress who have been left 
waiting at different times throughout the last year for hours and often 
days. There have been documented occasions where people in severe 
distress have been forced to wait in the emergency department for numbers 
of days. 

Ms White - Six.

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes, six days - thank you, Ms White. Earlier this year, 
people were repeatedly having to wait for that time. We clearly have 
situation where the system is utterly broken for the people who are most 
vulnerable and who most need it. This has had a terrible impact on the 
staff who have had to experience the vicarious trauma of working in an 
emergency department where day on day they can see the ambulances ramped 
up outside. They are aware of the frustration and concern of the 
ambulance drivers, the real distress of nurses and clinicians, who are 
looking at the massive queue of people and who do not have the appropriate 
facilities to care for people. These are people who are trained to care. 
They are highly expert and they are ready to do their job. It is 
incredibly distressing for them and most distressing for the patients and 
their families waiting in the emergency department.

It is incredibly important that we do not only look at the acute hospital 
environment; that is one component. The biggest component is the real 
failure of this Liberal Government over the last four-and-a-half years to 
put money into preventive health. It is because of that failure and the $
210 million cut that went out of the Health budget in 2014 that all of the 
critical support services and community services that were doing the work 
in the community - to remind people to go to their checks for different 
chronic diseases for prevention, to support people who needed that extra 
little bit of help, to be there for people in mental health distress, to 
provide care for the carers, to provide respite service - have been cut to 
the bone or dismissed and unfunded altogether.

We have a skeleton of hardworking, dedicated people in the community who, 
for want of a tiny bit of money from this Liberal Government, have been 
kept with the barest minimum staff. I speak to people like this all the 
time. I go out into the community. I went to Huonville a couple of weeks 
ago. The Huon Valley Council ran a Health and Wellbeing Day and it was 
amazing. It was packed. The Town Hall, outside the Town Hall, and the 
library were packed full of services doing such hard work. I thought I 
would be there for an hour-and-a-half, I could not get out in three hours 
and I could have stayed the day talking to people.

The experiences of people from organisations like Grow, Flourish, Move 
Well Eat Well, Stronger Together, the Men's Shed, Suicide Support, mental 
health carers, Lifeline, Colony 47, Link Youth Health Service and 
headspace - they are only some of the organisations I had a chance to 
connect with, going from table to table. Each of those groups has been 
starved of the money they need to keep staff going at a bare skeleton 
level relative to the demand, relative to the need.

While we focus on the hospital system we are taking our focus away from 
the preventive health and community system. We have to do both. I am 
disappointed in Ms White for her leadership on preventive health. We all 
need to be pushing hard on Mr Ferguson, the Minister for Health, to 
remember his duty to his Health portfolio. If he takes it seriously, if 
he is an intelligent person, he will understand the evidence; you cannot 
put money into the acute sector and expect to see any dent in the number 
of people who are coming to our hospital systems if you are also not 
putting money into preventive health.

While the minister may be gaining some traction in the area of mental 
health he has absolutely dropped the ball on preventive health generally. 
The 'best health in Australia' by 2025 aim has gone by the wayside but 
that is the thinking we need right now. That is the sort of leadership we 
need for the next three-and-a-half years in this term of Government. Mr 
Ferguson should be opening himself to taking up that baton because the 
Mental Health Council implored governments to commit to developing 
seamless mental health services and to publicly commit to working toward 
preventive health and early intervention in their public statement the 
week before last. It is not enough to publicly commit without the money 
behind it. I look forward to the announcement today and I hope it is a 
serious injection of money into solving the issue in the acute health 
sector and into the community services. 

Mental health carers, for example, did not see any budget increase last 
year, yet all the patients that end up in psychosis at the emergency 
department might be there for five hours or three days and then they will 
go home. When they go home they will be in the house with their parents, 
their in-laws or by themselves every other day. It is the every other day, 
if they do not have some support, some respite for their carer, they will 
bounce straight back into the emergency department - the worst possible 
place for a sick person. We need that support for the carers who are 
doing the work in the community every day.