Ms O'CONNOR question to PREMIER, Mr HODGMAN
Labor Matter of Public Importance - Health Cuts
Parliamentary Activity - Tuesday, 30 July 2019
Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Deputy Speaker, I congratulate you on your new position.
I have heard this new Health minister, Ms Courtney, and the previous health minister trumpet the increasing spend this Government has made into the Health budget as though it is an extraordinary amount they have provided towards such an essential service. It is just a statement of fact that every single government from time immemorial has increased the Health budget year on year. That is because there are some fundamental things which happen in the health system in particular more than other portfolio areas which require an increase in actual numbers from the budget every year.
Those things include medical equipment and consumables. Those prices go up. The cost of staffing with CPI goes up every year. The number of patients in Tasmania has been increasing every single year between 5 per cent and 7 per cent. That is the tsunami of people who are turning up at the emergency department needing urgent treatment, to have access to an inpatient bed, to be discharged once they are well enough to go home and be cared for in the community with community health services, which themselves require an increase in the budget because they have staff, consumables and they have medical equipment.
It is nonsense for the Government to claim and to pat themselves on the back as though they have done something good for the health budget in their term of government. A history lesson for the government, since they seem to have forgotten that in 2014 when they came in, they slashed $220 million from the health budget. Such an outrage. It was a disgusting, cynical move on the part of a Liberal Government to come in and cut $220 million out of the health budget, particularly after claiming that the previous Labor-Greens government had created a broken health system.
They came into what they said was a broken health system and then crippled it. They made it a much worse situation by taking $220 million out of the budget. Under intense public pressure, they put $100 million back in. We are, from that time, $110 million down already. What have we seen? 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 front page newspaper stories, terrible stories of people in the emergency departments of the Royal Hobart Hospital and the Launceston General Hospital in particular, waiting for 36, 48, 72 hours for treatment. Older people laying on the floor, young people, people in acute mental health distress unable to receive treatment in the inpatient wards. Staff terribly distressed.
Ambulance paramedics: I heard a story from Friday night of a southern ambulance and volunteer paramedic stuck in the hallway with their patient in the Royal Hobart Hospital Emergency Department, minding them for six hours. There were no ambulances available for people in the south of Tasmania during that period, none. Yet today we have a Treasurer who comes in here talking about the need to get efficiencies from every portfolio in government including from health. Not only has he already stolen $110 million from the base funding five years ago but he wants to go in again and take another $35 million, $50 million - we do not know. We do not have the final figure. It is disgusting to imagine that Tasmanians should have to bear a further cut to a health system which is already in acknowledged crisis which is why we had the Access Solutions Meeting.
Solutions do not come free. We cannot keep trying to improve a situation with one hand and taking away from it with the other, which is exactly what this Treasurer and this Health minister are going to be doing.
So, the minister, Ms Courtney, will sit here and preside over a hospital which desperately needs more money. The Registrar's letter confirmed that to the Health Executive. They need more staff at the Emergency Department and the inpatient wards and they especially need some funding for preventative health which the Liberal Government has talked about but never provided anything substantial.
We will continue to have more people needing to access emergency department treatment when we do not put the money into chronic care support services in the community, when we do not fund and legislate to reduce smoking rates, when we do not support the work of Chronic Disease Alliance and other community organisations and health agencies who are working to try to prevent people getting to the emergency department in the first place.
This is not fat to be cut from the health budget. Which nurse will end up doing the paperwork because Mr Gutwein has taken away somebody who does the administration of the hospital? There is no space to cut from the health sector. Solutions are about changing culture but that is not enough. The Access Solutions Meeting made it quite clear that there are real costs to improving the health system to bring it back to a basic standard of functioning.
It is not good enough for the Treasurer to talk about getting efficiencies in health. It is a crazy idea really to propose that given that the climate where we are waiting to hear tomorrow from the Health minister the report from the Access Solutions Meeting. The minister will present the report from the meeting and the findings that are due at the end of July at the same time as talking about how she will be cutting her own department.