Rosalie Woodruff MP | Acting Greens Leader
Tasmania has a new Minister taking over the Health portfolio, but this will be a meaningless step for Tasmanians in need of critical health services unless it’s accompanied by a new approach.
For too long we’ve seen the Liberals neglect and seriously underfund the health system. Across their near decade in office this government has refused to put a real focus on preventative health, ignored chronic and dangerous understaffing in hospitals, and failed to deliver critical infrastructure in a timely way.
The issues in health are complex, and they can’t be solved overnight, but the approach the Liberals are taking now is clearly failing.
Look at the location of Guy Barnett’s first press conference in his new role - the Royal Hobart Hospital. Nearly half of all patients arriving by ambulance to the Royal are now ramped, and half of emergency department patients aren’t seen within clinically safe timeframes.
To turn the terrible situation in Health around we need a new, more ambitious approach. The new Health Minister needs to start his new job by admitting the state of the health system is simply unacceptable, and by committing to doing things differently.
We need to see an ambitious growth in investment, not just small budget increases to keep up with inflation. With other states jockeying to hire critical health staff, Tasmania needs to be on the front foot with a bold plan to tackle chronic understaffing and to build the workforce we need for a sustainable and functional health system. And we need a genuine focus on preventative health to keep people well and out of hospital in the first place.
There’s a whole range of things this Minister needs to do differently to his predecessors, but one crucial area is taking on board the concerns of health unions and health staff. People working in hospitals, health centres, and the ambulance service have invaluable insights into the improvements that can and need to be made – but they need a Minister who will listen.
For the sake of every Tasmanian, we hope Guy Barnett is up to the task.