Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for HEALTH, Mr ROCKLIFF
Words cannot do justice to the truly dire state of Tasmania's ambulance service. Your Government's repeated failure at every budget to fund enough paramedics and support volunteers is costing lives. People are dying waiting hours for an ambulance. The mental health distress for staff of the casualised work, overwork and trauma is leading to a wave of resignations from Ambulance Tasmania. The best of our best are leaving the state or quitting para-medicine for good. On your watch as Health minister, things have got increasingly worse. Have you identified what you are doing wrong and what are you going to do to fix it to ensure that Tasmanians in need, when they call for an ambulance, have it come and that they get the care they deserve?
Mr Speaker, I thank the member for her question and interest in this matter. Her question reflects the increase in demand for our health services every year and I have some very clear data on that. It is clearly important that we open more beds and reduce access block, which we are continually doing and have done over the course of a number of years. I will not go into the experience the Tasmanians had between 2010 and 2014 because we all know it.
While the statewide median emergency response time has increased, it has done so in the context of total responses significantly increasing. Between 2019-20 and 2020-21, the total number of ambulance responses increased by some 10.5 per cent, from 93 165 to 102 986. Notably in the most recent AMA Report Card, Tasmania recorded one of the nation's highest proportions of patients transferred from ambulance to hospital, at 79.6 per cent within 30 minutes, second only, I am advised, after New South Wales.
Dr Woodruff - You're not supporting your staff.
Mr ROCKLIFF - We are supporting our staff. I recognise the pressures of our first responders when it comes to our paramedics. Ms White delivered me some correspondence from a number of paramedics and people in the community regarding the pressures within Ambulance Tasmania and our paramedic staff. Our first responders do a fantastic job and I commend them for the often very distressing circumstances they confront when delivering very good care for people who require it.
What is important is investment in paramedics. It is a fact that since 2014 we have 243 more full-time equivalents across Ambulance Tasmania.
Dr Woodruff - It's not real. I don't know what you're talking about.
Mr ROCKLIFF - We made very clear commitments, Dr Woodruff, at the last election around supporting 48 more paramedics, of which we have delivered 44. We are looking at areas of Tasmania where there is increased demand -
Dr Woodruff - It's not working. Why have you casualised them?
Mr SPEAKER - Order, member for Franklin.
Mr ROCKLIFF - such as in Sorell, in Lyons and in Huonville, as an example, where we are about to invest to turn those stations into 24-hour seven days per week stations, which is important.
Dr Woodruff - But there are no new staff, no increase.
Mr ROCKLIFF - We are providing new staff. I have demonstrated that in the data I have reflected. We also have increased demands on our health system, Dr Woodruff, and the whole continuum from when triple zero is called, the secondary triage operations can swing into action as well as our PACER team when it comes to supporting our mental health consumers. What is also important is the work that has been done on a statewide access and flow program within our hospitals, backed up by increased resources and increased hospital beds. Ward 3D in Launceston has some 28 additional bed capacity. The TASU, ward 6A from memory, in the Royal Hobart Hospital, has had an increase of 24 beds.
Our system improvement is also very important. Not only resources, there are more paramedics, opening up new beds, employing more staff in hospitals, but we need to look at system improvement as well. That is exactly what we are doing. Part of that system improvement is taking the pressure off our emergency departments.
The new triage PACER system, where mental health clinicians, paramedics and police work together to support people with serious mental health episodes in the community, is alleviating the pressure on our emergency departments. That is working. The latest advice is that more than 300 people have been supported with that system. It is a great innovation and investment. These people would otherwise have been supported in our emergency departments, and that creates all sorts of access and flow challenges. There has been investment in paramedics, investment in new vehicles - a $9 million investment into 30 new vehicles - investment in hospital beds and system improvement in access and flow statewide.