Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for HEALTH, Ms COURTNEY
The Chief Medical Officer's recommendations to prevent another major COVID-19 outbreak were to fix the structure and resourcing, the process and the culture of hospitals. The Director of Public Health's top two recommendations relate to the resourcing and management of infection control needed to create a culture of safety. Culture is set by management, by the THS and ultimately by the minister. It was clear before the outbreak that this hospital was under-resourced. The Auditor General's report on the performance of the four major hospitals in 2018-19 also found the THS urgently needed to implement a cultural improvement program.
Today's front page of The Advocate shows staff at the North West Regional Hospital are afraid to return to work. They need reassurance. While Tasmanians wait for a vaccine, will you take responsibility for inoculating the state's hospital system to prevent such COVID-19 outbreaks in future?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question. I will go to the end of your question first.
As Health minister, I always take absolute responsibility for the actions within the health system. I thank the hardworking staff for what they have done. On the ground, the nurses, the clinical staff, the admin and the cleaners have all been working incredibly hard. Ambulance Tasmania over the preceding few weeks particularly on the north-west coast transporting patients to the LGH, which has been standing up again to take those patients. We are seeing the Mersey Community Hospital taking onboard more patients as well as staff being deployed from the south. I thank those staff members for what they are doing. They are working incredibly hard not only to deal with this outbreak but also ensure that we have maximum preparedness across our entire health care system during this pandemic.
With regard to the North West Regional Hospital, as with other areas of our hospitals we have been implementing pandemic escalation plans over the past weeks and months. This has been part of our planning to ensure that resourcing is deployed to different areas to ensure that they have maximum preparedness. This work is continuing. We are ensuring that additional capacity is applied around the entire state to ensure that they are supported.
With regard to the north west in particular, since coming to government we have seen 50 more nurses deployed there, eight new beds and capital investment across the North West Regional site as well as the Mersey site. We have also employed more paramedics across the north west. We have been responding to need across our entire health care system since coming to government. Since we raised a public health emergency - it was only last month - we have put additional resources both in the emergency management structure, on the ground in terms of resourcing, but importantly as was raised by you infection control and PPEs. So, at those sites we have implemented the measures to support staff to make sure that they fully understand and have the support to be able to use PPE appropriately and feel safe about coming back to work.
It is also why in our coming-back-to-work procedures we have initiated a training program so that the staff are retrained in PPE. This provides confidence for the further support staff who will be helping with that and the buddy system that we have. We are also testing all staff before they come back. Also, over the past two weeks, we have been conducting a deep clean of those sites.
I want our staff to feel confident and I want them to feel supported. The entire health care system is working to be able to support them. We have seen that over the last two to three weeks as those measures have been taken at those hospital sites. I thank those staff. I know it has been incredibly stressful on them, their families, the patients and the broader community, as well as those other hospitals that have taken an extra burden because of this. I reassure all Tasmanians, but particularly those on the north-west coast, that I will take whatever measures I can as a health minister to ensure your safety.