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Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 18 October 2022

Tags: Health, Hospitals

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, the Greens have been following the decisions of the Health minister very closely. We have to flag that we have some real concerns with how we see the decisions of the Premier and Health minister unfolding when it comes to looking after the most vulnerable people in this state. It seems, with respect, that the Premier is being very weak on the things that matter the most.

Where we expected strength, we certainly have a Premier with heart but that is not enough. It is not enough when you have vested, powerful interests. It is not enough when you want to hold back the tide so that people who are vulnerable and at high risk of COVID-19 infection, for example, are properly protected.

The Premier gave a pathetic and very disappointing response to the question this morning about the ending of COVID-19 isolation periods and the impacts for people with disabilities. He has been called out by Disability Voices Tasmania. DVT is very upset and has described the move as premature and dangerous. Let us not forget this Premier was one of two Premiers who were pushing for this. The AMA and the rest of the medical community around Australia have called it out for what it is: it is scientifically illiterate. It is medical nonsense to imagine that if you let infectious people back into the community, it is going to somehow benefit the health of Tasmanians.

The Premier is not putting the health of Tasmanians first. He is doing what the business community wants. That is why we are concerned about his actions, or inactions, around changing the culture in Tasmania's hospitals that have led to us having a commission of inquiry because of decades of coverup that has led to child sex abuse occurring across Tasmanian institutions.

Let us not pretend to ourselves that this is going to be an easy ship to turn around. It is not because culture sets and becomes toxic in places and it is very hard to shift. You need a Premier who is strong, and who understands how power works.

I want to acknowledge that today is a difficult day for some people. It is a day when justice was denied. I am going to speak in generalities about a couple of matters that were raised in the commission of inquiry. One of the things I wanted to speak about was work presented to the commission by one of the heroic staff members who bravely battled indifference and denial and was demonised as they attempted to speak up about the culture and the inactions that were happening in reporting mandatory notifications, harassment and abuse in the LGH many years ago.

It is clear that the unique factors that created the culture which has made the LGH a focus for predatory attention by those seeking child sex abuse persist today, and that is the problem.

When the Premier was asked a question this morning about what action was being taken in regard to a complaint made recently about Dr Renshaw from the LGH, who still remains as an employee of the hospital, we did not get a response. We got a general shopping list of things that the Government is doing around the commission of inquiry and actions that have been taken. They are good, but that is not the issue we have at hand. What are the consequences, real and significant, for people who have performed misconduct, have failed to notify, failed to take action, or actively covered up abuse? Where allegations persist and/or were before Tasmania Police, why is the Premier not coming forward and at least acknowledging that actions are being taken today by the department? He could simply have said in response to the question, 'Yes, there is a response, and yes, an own-investigation is underway'. The Health secretary has a capacity for an own-motion investigation.

I want to speak briefly about the culture of the LGH because it is certain that all Australian hospitals have a toxic culture and bullying, harassment and victimisation occur in all hospitals. That is a matter in the College of Surgeons' report in 2015 and a matter that needs to be dealt with everywhere, but there is something particular about the LGH. There are particular factors that have fuelled the situation in Launceston. One that was presented to the commission of inquiry is the reported propensity of professional politicians to act at the behest of malefactors within the senior echelons of the hospital fraternity. Local media personalities have also been accused of playing a role.

These are the sorts of things we have to get to the bottom of. We have to understand why it is, in their words, 'the informal power clique' that operates as the shadow administration in the LGH, invisible but highly influential; members who hold official positions within the conventional bureaucracy, patriarchal obviously, led by senior established iconic medicos; highly political, including connections with professional politicians; contemptuous of those considered undeserving; operating under a feudal system of allegiances and patronage; feared by official management and politicians; operating outside bureaucratic norms; self-interested and entitled, controlling key hospital appointments, for example, the CEO, the board, the Director of Surgery, the Director of Medical Services, et cetera; connected with local media identities; and accessing benefits and opportunities and especially the rights to private practice income.

Mr Speaker, these are all the factors that are described as being specific to the LGH. We want to know what the Premier is doing about them today, and specifically about people who are still in positions, who have through their own testimony made it clear that they have not acted or been involved in cover-ups of child sex abuse and yet still remain in positions today.