Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for HEALTH, Mr BARNETT
Your departmental secretary is advising Tasmanians to stay away from hospitals unless it is an emergency because the situation in the north and south emergency departments are out of control. Of course they are because you and your Government starved Health of funds for a decade. Now you are trying to play catch-up without listening to what staff need.
Recently you have been blaming GPs for the dire pressure on emergency departments and now you are expecting people to assess their own risk. Weeks ago, unions were calling for you to call the hospital crisis as it is and upgrade to a 'code yellow' response. You refused. The only way to read this is your secretary is acting under express or implied direction from you not to elevate this very serious crisis to code yellow. Why are you politically interfering in the operations of Tasmanian hospitals, keeping it at a downgraded response level that is putting the lives of patients and the welfare of staff at risk?
Mr Speaker, I thank the member for Franklin for her question. At the outset I reject wholeheartedly the baseless allegation in the last part of her question regarding political interference. I find it offensive. Those on this side of the House find it offensive and reject it entirely. The secretary of the department does a great job on behalf of the Department of Health.
Regarding the reference to code yellow last week and the allegations that you have just made, they are completely and utterly wrong. You are disgracefully spreading mistruths about the Royal Hobart Hospital operating under code yellow despite the Department of Health confirming that the statement was false. You are impugning the credibility and the integrity of the secretary of the Department of Health.
Dr Woodruff - Of you.
Mr SPEAKER - Order.
Mr BARNETT - You are and I reject it wholeheartedly.
With respect to the other parts of the question let us be very clear. As the Premier said, we take this very seriously. It is a top priority for our Government. That is why we have record spending of more than $12 billion in our Budget, more than $8 million per day.
I wanted to say thank you, thank you, thank you to our hard-working healthcare workers. I admire them. They are awesome, During some very challenging conditions in the last five-odd weeks as minister, what stood out for me everywhere I have been around this state is the healthcare workers I have met. They are professional, they are capable and they care. They have heart. I back them, the Government backs them and we say thank you to them for what they do.
The secretary of the department has acknowledged the high number of patients and the high demand for services that we are experiencing at the moment. This happens from time to time. There is COVID-19, and there is flu affecting the high rates of unplanned absences. There are reasons. The secretary outlined that last night. It is on the public record. The Premier has outlined the initiatives the Government has under way to address these very important matters. It is important.
I was with the Prime Minister and Premier last week. He acknowledged the importance of health and he acknowledged that it should be above politics. That is what is not happening at the moment from state Labor and the Greens. We are out there to make a positive difference. As the Prime Minister said, it should be above politics. You are not talking about party politics, the Prime Minister said. You should not be. You should talk about solutions, what patients need. That is what I am concerned about.
We all agree on this side of the House. That is why we have a range of initiatives in place to address these important matters. We acknowledge the current challenges and we will continue to invest at record levels in health to make a difference.