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Health in the North

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Tags: Launceston General Hospital, Health, State Budget

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Deputy Speaker, anyone who has anything to do with the Launceston General Hospital will know that the quality of care provided by the staff there is enormously high and the caring and very compassionate way that they deal with the manifestly inadequate resources that they have at hand to care for sick patients is exemplary.

The problem with the Launceston General Hospital has nothing to do with staff and everything to do with the continual underfunding and under-resourcing of that hospital by the Liberals in Government. The Liberals came into Government and clawed $220 million out of the health budget in the first year and due to the community outrage at these major cuts to the health system subsequently put a mere $110 million of that back in.

The Liberals have always undervalued the public health system. Anyone who watched the penny drop for the Minister for Health and the Premier throughout the coronavirus pandemic in Tasmania, and with the north west COVID-19 outbreak, would expect them to understand how essential it is to have a well-resourced, functioning public health system. Anyone who has watched that would realise how behind the eight ball the Liberals have been, and how slow they have been to catch on to the truth that we must resource, respect and control a health system that is owned by the people, and provides the people with the priority services they deserve when they need them. Unless we do that we are fundamentally missing the purpose of our role as members of parliament and particularly the role of those in government.

I notice the previous health minister is here listening in the Chamber and he too will have had the penny drop watching this Government's scramble to muster the appropriate resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in Tasmania. It is the systemic supporting and resourcing of public health that keeps it resilient and able to respond effectively in crises like we are seeing at the moment. The inquiry into the north west outbreak has not been completed yet. However, the evidence from the interim report of the Director of Public Health and the evidence of submissions make it very clear that a fundamental problem with the north west hospital was not the staff or anything to do with their behaviour. The problem was the culture and the funding of a culture which make it difficult for people to respond with the expertise and the resources that they need to keep themselves safe, to keep their patients safe and to care for and treat and make the people who come into the hospital as well as possible.

The public health system in the Launceston General Hospital has been particularly badly served by this Government. I am sure that the other members in the opposition have the same issues that I have as the Greens spokesperson for health. We write letters to the minister about issues that come up and repeatedly they are not even responded to. I refer to my letter of 2 March to the minister about the problems with the critical shortage of essential equipment in the Launceston General Hospital, in particular the cardiac telemetry units that are essential for monitoring a wide range of life-threatening conditions.

We were contacted earlier this year by a patient who was admitted to the LGH with symptoms of a transient ischaemic attack. The registrar informed the patient's relatives that monitoring could not occur for the 48-hour period that was recommended because there was a shortage of units meaning that the telemetry unit machine was only available for eight hours.

I asked the minister how many cardiac telemetry units were available at the LGH, and whether they were sufficient according to the medically required adequate number for monitoring, but I did not receive a response. I have been contacted about an extremely serious issue from a woman whose brother was admitted to the LGH recently, was discharged, then readmitted and later died. She was writing because of her experience of the failure of the LGH to provide proper discharge assessment advice.

That has led to a series of truly appalling experiences for her 85 year old brother when he returned to his home. He was unable to care for himself. His environment was dangerous and was known to be insufficient.

The push to discharge patients and the lack of discharge assessment is a very concerning issue at the LGH.