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Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 31 May 2023

Tags: Health, State Budget

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, in August last year an enormous number of paramedics walked off the job. That was overwhelmingly supported by the community and other health workers at the time. It was a show of collective spirit.

Paramedics have such a hard time. They are constantly under pressure. This is not only from being in a situation of not being able to perform their job because they are essentially minding patients who should be admitted to emergency department on the ramp, sometimes for their whole shift. They feel a great sense of distress at hearing emergencies called up on the roster system and not being able to respond. Knowing that there are people in need, that that need may well life-threatening if it is not responded to in a quick enough time really eats them up. Sitting there, minding people in a corridor or in a room where, as we know, appallingly, last year a woman died without palliative care, without dignity of the last hours of her life, without proper pain relief. Not able to be even admitted to a bed in the hospital, cared for in her last hours by her daughter, because the paramedics available were stretched between so many patients. This is the everyday experience, and it is no wonder that people do not turn up for shifts. It is no wonder that they burn out and walk away. It is no wonder that we are hearing on a daily basis from doctors and nurses at the Royal Hobart Hospital and the Launceston General Hospital that people are leaving in droves like people have never seen before. They are leaving this state because they feel there is no hope under this Liberal Government. There is no plan that is effective. There is nothing more than a piecemeal patching together of a budget.

Year after year has been serial underinvestment under the Liberals and we see the result of it. Even if the Premier wanted to play catch-up, look at what he has allowed to be done to this Budget. At a time when more than ever we should be having massive investments in Public Health, he has allowed big cuts. We cannot afford any cuts, we need massive increased investment. He continues to parrot that we are spending more than ever on Health. Well, of course we are, because every year with the cost of medical services inflation, the price goes up. Every year there are more people who will be accessing emergency departments, and they are; we can chart it. The THS staff will have charted it.

The numbers go up because we are not investing in keeping people well for longer in the community and what happens is that every year that the Liberals do not invest for that increase in people turning up to emergency departments, they do not invest with enough time for capital investment to, for example, make sure there is money in the budget to purchase essential services that are currently only provided by the private sector that should be taken into Public Health hands.

We deserve to have basic mental health treatments for everyone in Tasmania. It should not just be the province of people who are able to continue to keep up private insurance. We are part of a community who are looking after each other. That is our job and it is especially the Minister for Health's job, but what we got was $300 million of cuts.

The Premier said this morning that frontline services will be protected. Well, I tell him there are no differences between frontline and backline services. They are all part of the same system working their guts out every day, penny pinching, pinching with time, over-extended, exhausted and burnt out. There is no difference between the front and back line. They work as a cohesive unit. That is how hospitals work. That is how community health centres work. That is how palliative care works. There is no difference, so a cut is a cut is a cut, and that is what he is doing as the Premier.

Instead of the Premier and Minister for Health focusing on Health, he is focusing on the stadium, and everyone knows it. Everyone can see what is happening. Everyone has been listening to the Liberal fallacy of trickle-down-economics for the last two decades. They know it is a lie. They know they will not get a shekel. They know it will make no difference, so when they hear that Orwellian double-speak talking about efficiency dividends, they know what that means. Real people understand it means cuts, so ambulances will not come on time, you will not be able to get into the emergency department and you will not be able to get the care that you need at the most difficult times of people's lives because the Premier is not investing in it.

What we have is his response - the Liberal response - of individualising it as though it is a problem that can be solved one by one. Every single Tasmanian, all the 23 000 people waiting for elective surgeries - get on the phone, talk to the minister, just ring him up because he said, 'If you just ring up my office I will intervene. I will work with it'. You cannot do that. It is a system approach.

You have to get out of the Liberal mindset of just focusing on individual people, just like he does with COVID - no leadership, completely left Tasmanians to let that virus rip and everyone is meant to take care of themselves - 'Off you go out into the sea by yourself, just mind yourself.' What is he doing? He is chatting to Gill McLachlan, sorting out some big deal with guys in suits. Well, Tasmanians are watching and they are sickened by it.