Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Health spokesperson
Last week, the Federal Government announced it would underwrite the integration of private hospitals into the public system for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.
State governments were tasked with establishing a partnership agreement for integrating private hospital staff and facilities, and to do everything possible to prevent public hospitals becoming overwhelmed as the pandemic worsens.
North West Tasmanians’ fears for the ability of their health system to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic would not have been eased by today’s government briefing.
The medical and surgical wards at North West Regional hospital have been closed to new patients. Instead of doing everything possible to treat patients close to home, plans are underway to send them to Launceston for treatment.
The Government indicated they are in talks with the North West Private Hospital to see if patients can be treated there. This is not the single, integrated health system the Tasmanian Government should be mobilising.
Rather than negotiating with individual hospitals about whether or not they can help, the state government needs to urgently act to ensure the full capacity of the private hospital system is available to be deployed as necessary at the instruction of the Director of Public Health.
The Tasmanian Government has not yet announced its plan for how it will manage the COVID19 crisis through an integrated health system.
The best chance of being prepared is to make sure we have a united hospital system, public and private.
The three cases of COVID-19 at the North West Regional Hospital, and the number of close contacts these people had, have been described by health officials as a very serious incident. Coupled with two other potential cases of community transmission in the North West, this raises the prospect of future regional movement restrictions. Should that occur, it is more essential than ever that proper access to local health services is maintained.
There are clearly serious capacity constraints on public health facility infrastructure and staffing in the North West. Health Minister Sarah Courtney must reassure residents the government will prioritise all necessary resources to keep essential medical and surgical hospital services in this region.