Health Minister, Michael Ferguson, has so far done a lot of talking about health reform, lowering elective surgery waiting lists and delivering a modern Royal Hobart Hospital, but almost a year into the job and there is still no real sign of action, Greens' Health spokesperson, Cassy O'Connor MP said today.
"Mr Ferguson can talk all he likes, deliver as many White and Green Papers as his Department is able, but he simply won't be able to fix public health in Tasmania in the face of $1.7 billion in cuts to Commonwealth health funding for Tasmania over the next nine years, on top of the Hodgman Government's cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services.
"Almost 250 FTE positions will be cut from Mr Ferguson's Department this financial year, nurses are not having contracts renewed, with more job losses projected across the Forward Estimates due to both State and Commonwealth budget cuts to public health in Tasmania.
These are the questions Mr Ferguson needs to answer:
1. How can his government deliver meaningful reform to Tasmania's public health system and lower elective surgery waiting lists when the state's health budget is being cut so savagely by both State and Federal Liberal governments?
2. Does the Minister acknowledge his 'reforms' will amount to little more than tinkering without a significant increase rather than a massive decrease in government funding?
3. How does he expect to retain highly skilled medical professionals - who are paid less than their interstate counterparts - in a public health system which is systemically underfunded and enduring massive cuts to Tasmanian Health Organisations (THOs) over the next decade?
4. Does the Minister acknowledge that Tasmania's rapidly ageing population and high chronic disease burden will require not only increased funding into the public hospital system, but also restored funding to preventative health which was gutted in the first Abbott Budget and in the first Hodgman Budget which cut more than $6million out of Population Health in DHHS?
5. White and Green Papers are all very well, but what budget is attached to Mr Ferguson's 'reform' agenda?
6. If no savings are being reversed, no new dollars are being committed and nurses are being sacked, why should Tasmanians believe Mr Ferguson can or will deliver the public health system they deserve?
"Talk, talk, talk is what this Health Minister does, all the while pretending the portfolio he administers is not under assault from his own government and that of his federal colleagues.
"Tasmanians deserve better," Ms O'Connor said.