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Health – Jack Jumper Desensitisation Program

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Monday, 5 June 2023

Tags: Health, State Budget

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, Mr Emery, that is why we asked the question about the potential extra helicopter cost.

Premier, I have a different question now, it is about people in the north and particularly the north-west and the lethality of jack jumper bites for some people. The jack jumper desensitisation program which is run from the Royal Hobart Hospital, is very effective and lifesaving. It is only available for phase 1 at the Royal Hobart Hospital and that requires a weekly visit, for three months.

After that, the maintenance is available elsewhere. They must be stable on the treatment before the care is transferred to the North West Regional Hospital in the lowest category. Have you investigated, is there is any scope for the program to be expanded to allow for people to access that phase1 at the North West Regional Hospital?

Mr ROCKLIFF - And in the other regions?

Dr WOODRUFF - To the North West Regional Hospital would be good, because there are a lot of jack jumpers all over the state - and bees, wasps and other insects that cause an anaphylaxis response.

Mr ROCKLIFF - The jack jumper anti-venom therapy in Tasmania is improving further, with the program having recently expanded to become a statewide specialist allergy unit based at the Royal Hobart Hospital. Clinics are now available five days per week, and there are 280 patients currently receiving venom therapy in Tasmania. I did see a matter around the north-west.

This initial treatment phase, as you mentioned, has never been available at the Launceston General Hospital or the North West Regional Hospital. As a highly specialised clinical therapy, it is provided exclusively at the Royal Hobart Hospital to ensure the highest standards of patient safety and availability of the necessary clinical expertise.

A jack jumper therapy maintenance clinic is also available at the North-West Regional Hospital when patients are stable on treatment. Generally, after three months from commencing treatment they have the option to transfer their treatment to the North West Regional Hospital. Providing access to a sustainable clinic at the Launceston General Hospital is under investigation, and financial assistance is available for patients from the north and the north-west to access the initial phase of treatment at the Royal Hobart Hospital through the patient travel assistance scheme. Our inability to replicate what is in the south, in terms of the clinical expertise required, to the north-west is preventing us from having a phase 1 service.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, but through you minister, did you say that you were investigating something for the Launceston General Hospital, and is there a time frame for that?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Providing access to a sustainable clinic at the Launceston General Hospital is under investigation; that is the information that I have. I can seek that information in terms of time frame and exactly what the Launceston General Hospital service will look like, as well.

Mr ROCKLIFF - It's a maintenance service - the same as the north west.

Dr WOODRUFF - There's no investigation for expanding the phase one capacity?

Mr ROCKLIFF - No, not that I'm aware of.

Mr WEBSTER - This is extremely successful and, yes, it is run out of the Royal - but it's run for the whole state. In the last few years, there haven't been any deaths from jack jumper bite and, as someone with a jack jumper allergy, I can really appreciate that.

Dr WOODRUFF - I have one of them in my family, too.

Mr WEBSTER - It is very successful. It is highly specialised and the Royal runs this service as a statewide service. As the minister said, it's because of specialisation that we wouldn't be able to replicate that in all three regions.

Ms DOW - I didn't think that the service was available at the North West Regional Hospital prior to COVID-19. There used to be a service that was provided years ago.

Dr WOODRUFF - It could've been the maintenance phase, not the beginning phase.

Mr ROCKLIFF - Not the full on one, I don't think.

Mr WEBSTER - As I understand it, it is the maintenance one, which stopped and then started again.