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Health System

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Tags: Health Crisis, Hospitals, Health

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, the Premier and Minister for Health seems to be talking about another Tasmania. It does not make any sense to me. Unfortunately this minister, the third Health minister that I can remember since the Liberals have been in Government, is continuing to mismanage the health and hospital system in Tasmania, which is increasing the burden on our hospital system.

We have an intolerable pressure now on all parts of the hospital system which, as the minister just correctly outlined, is for people who are in acute and dire need of medical intervention, emergency treatment or surgery. At the acute end the wheels are so badly falling off that we have horrendous ramping, people cannot get into the emergency department when they are at critical need.

The ambulance response times in Tasmania are now so far out of control and so much worse than they have ever been, that for the first time ever, just a few weeks ago, our median emergency response time for ambulances was 15 minutes. This is an appalling situation because it means that 50 per cent of people who turn up to hospital in an ambulance will not be seen in under 15 minutes. It will be 36 minutes or over for at least 10 per cent of people who end up in an ambulance.

The paramedic professionals and HACSU have made it very clear that Tasmania's ambulances in the past month have been ramped at hospitals for 140.6 hours a day on average. The real life results of that are truly frightening and have led to deaths. A 13 year old boy suffered an asthma attack and stopped breathing in a taxi because he was required to go via taxi to hospital without the support of paramedics. In this life threatening situation, the child's mother was told that there were no ambulances available because they were ramping or at other jobs.

This was the real-life situation of a child and mother in July.

We have paramedics who are beyond breaking point. We detailed in this year's Estimates scrutiny the incredible number of empty shifts in ambulance station rosters around Tasmania, particularly in southern Tasmania, many in Franklin but also in other parts surrounding Hobart.

We have had night after night of Friday and Saturday nights where there have been no ambulances. If somebody needs it, they have to come from Hobart but only if they are available because they are ramped. We have paramedics walking off the job on time, as they ought to be able to do. HACSU had a great rally on 2 September and a previous one on 19 August where paramedics walked off the job on time to spend time with their family, to have the sort of relaxation they need with the incredible stress they are under.

It is deeply concerning that we have a government, a minister and a premier who are in complete denial about the avoidable burden they are putting on the hospital system because of COVID 19 mismanagement in Tasmania. We agree with the AMA, the organisations, epidemiologists and experts who are highly critical of the federal government, the Cabinet and health ministers' decision to reduce isolation from seven days to five days for the majority of workers.

We are deeply sceptical that the Minister for Health understands the reality of allowing up to 25 per cent of people to move out into the community when they are identified as infectious, according to the AMA and other experts. To go back to work, to circulate with people in the community, to speak with customers, to work with clients who are vulnerable, to infect them and reinfect them so that we have not only the burden on the hospital the Government has identified. This is their pleading why we are in this situation of deep hospital crisis. But that is something the minister can do: the Premier has the capacity to keep the COVID-19 isolation period at one week an to introduce the mask mandate.

Instead, it is going to cost lives and it will increase the long-term burden on the health system because of long COVID-19 complications. We are seeing the evidence of how dramatic an impact that is having already in countries around the world.

I am appalled that the Premier is not doing the things he has at his disposal because we know, from the doctors and nurses, that we need more than fiddling around the edges. We need the statewide investment in more paramedics, ambulances, doctors and nurses. This is something that has been on the Government's agenda for years but time and again, they decide to spemd money in the budget on other things which are, by comparison, frivolous.

We have the opportunity to do some real revenue-raising by taxing mining companies, for example, the same as other states do. It is on the table and the Premier could do that and put that money into ambulances.