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Health Budget and Access Solutions meeting agreements

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Tags: Health, Hospitals, State Budget, Mental Health, Bed Block

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Deputy Speaker, I draw the minister's attention to some facts; there is a little secret that perhaps she should know as the Minister for Health. The Minister for Health oversees a budget which grows every year. That is the nature of the Health budget. There is no such thing in a modern world, like Tasmania purports to be, to have a budget that goes backwards. There is no capacity for cutting. Cutting is what the Liberals do by not funding the budget each year for the on-costs for staff, for the real costs of medical services, for the real costs of medicine and for the real costs of technology.

These things go up every single year by far more than the CPI - some of them I have mentioned by 5 per cent, 12 per cent - so every single year, the minister needs to comprehend that she, like every other Health minister before her, will be overseeing a Health budget which goes up, unless of course it was the Health budget of, I think, 2015, where this Liberal Government cut $210 million from that budget. So $210 million came out, it might have been 2014, and then $100 million of that was put back in the next year because it was such an outrageous gouging of money from our public health system. Even for the Liberals, it was a bridge too far; it was just far too much to be able to justify, even to their own Liberal supporters, their most staunch members. I have no doubt they got a pasting over that.

They put $100 million back in, but we still started with this Government cutting $110 million out of Health, and now year on year, the previous minister and now the current Minister for Health, is overseeing under this Tasmanian Liberal Government a Health budget which in real terms is being cut. It has not been increased to keep up with the real services and goods that are required to be bought by the health system. That is a fact. The minister needs to stop coming into this place, as does every previous Health minister in this Liberal Government, and telling mistruths to Tasmanians. It is not true that there is this vast river of money that the Liberals have put into the health system. The reverse is true; they have been stealing money.

The minister says 'it takes time', and she had the temerity to refer to a situation that happened nearly six years ago now. What a disgrace. Granted, if you buy her little fairytale, things were in a shocking situation and they were going to be improved under the golden era of the Liberals in government. Instead, the opposite has happened. Not only have they not been improving, they have been going backwards on so many measures, which is why we had the Access Solutions meeting on 19 June, five months ago now. Five months ago it was an emergency crisis meeting of everybody involved in the emergency department looking at the flow and the bed block and the crisis in our major public hospitals in Tasmania.

That meeting was on the back of a huge number of damning reports that had come before this place and the people of Tasmania to confirm what they know if they have been stuck ramped in an ambulance, or they have been stuck waiting over 24 hours in an emergency department at the Royal Hobart Hospital or the Launceston General Hospital. They would know what these reports have said about this Liberal Government's desperate lack of competency and their extreme underfunding of the health system and they would know that the Staib, Sullivan and Timms report 2016, the Patients First stage 2 2017, the review of Ambulance Tasmania 2017, the Auditor-General's Independence Assurance Report 2019, the Monaghan Review and the Commission on Delivery of Health Services in Tasmania have all delivered a string of recommendations for improving emergency department patient flow and hospital performance that have not been taken up.

This is a government that has independent reviews and then throws them into the bin, just as the Police, Fire and Emergency Management minister has failed to act on the two independent bushfire reviews, Tony Press in 2016 and the 2019 AFAC Review. They are outstanding, essential, life-saving recommendations that have not been implemented. So has the Health minister and the previous Health minister who is responsible, failed to take the actions from all that string of reports that led to the Access Solutions meeting and have failed to do the things that were promised in the Access Solutions meeting.

Five months ago, there was a string of actions. If the minister is so confident of their actions, why not come in tomorrow and table exactly what you have done? Give us an update on medium-term actions before the end of October. They were all meant to be done, the whole list of them. If you have the confidence in how well you are responding to this crisis, then table that to the parliament, minister. Let us know how you are going in developing a trial for a hospital in the home service and in considering the role of aged-care assessment teams. How are you going with trialling admission medication charting by pharmacists aimed at reducing the length of stay and medication errors? Have you established a quality improvement group to start trialling new approaches to improved patient flow? Have you evaluated and implemented improved processes? Have you developed a model for an integrated approach to mental health services inclusive of the hospital avoidance program? There is a string of things here that we have never heard about.