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Labor Matter of Public Importance - Health


Rosalie Woodruff MP

Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Tags: Health, Royal Hobart Hospital, North West Regional Hospital, Bed Block

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, Tasmanians would have been gobsmacked with the news that was reported last night about the gatecrashing by a highly-respected specialist from the Royal Hobart Hospital, Dr Frank O'Keeffe.  It was reported on the news and I understand the clip of that press conference has gone viral because of the response of the minister to the comments of Dr O'Keeffe.

I understand Dr O'Keeffe is a much-loved senior specialist in a range of women's health areas, including gynaecology and obstetrics.  He also has an interest in specialist trainee education through the Royal Australian and New Zealand College on a voluntary basis, is involved in teaching current UTAS medical students who do placements in ob/gyn at Hobart and has performed accreditation for training positions to ensure trainees are getting the appropriate training experiences.  Dr O'Keeffe is well placed, therefore, to make the comments he made yesterday and the context clearly is that such a senior person feels he has no other recourse to be heard except to gatecrash a press conference.

I am sure Dr O'Keeffe did not wake up in the morning and wish that was part of his day's work, but all credit to that man for standing up and speaking for all the other specialists and clinicians in the Royal Hobart Hospital, the Launceston General Hospital and the North West Regional Hospital who have not been listened to by this Health minister.  That is the context of today's conversation.  We can talk on a political level about four-and-a-half years ago, which is where the minister is still pointing back to with previous government, but he is still trying to pretend that he does not take responsibility for the situation in the Health portfolio.

As Ms O'Connor said before, the Health portfolio is, to a degree, a poisoned chalice.  It is a massive behemoth.  It is highly complex and is always going to have a tsunami, an increasing volume, of people who need care.  The only way through that space is for a minister to be trusted by the people in Tasmania and respected by the staff he is there to represent and to do the right thing.  What we are hearing from Dr O'Keeffe is the tip of the iceberg of what we have been hearing for years now, and it is not only about the beds or the lack of appropriate requirements, major surgeries and the number of major operations which Dr O'Keeffe talked about yesterday that are not occurring at the Royal Hobart Hospital and he said therefore put in jeopardy accreditation and training for registrars and students.

It is about the whole way this Health portfolio is being mismanaged by the Health minister.  He has a defensive reaction and, as we saw yesterday by his body language, a dismissive reaction when clinicians, specialists, nurses and staff at all levels in the hospital have raised concerns.  Surely the one thing you can contribute as a minister in this portfolio is to listen and be trusted.  There is a place for a person to take a leadership role like that in Tasmania.  It is not an impossible task.

The challenge for this Health minister is to repair the trust he has broken in staff and to provide a truly open door that is not about flicking people off during a press conference to their boss, a senior member of staff, but stopping, acknowledging, being open and unafraid.  If you are open to hearing people's criticisms, that is the first and most important step to moving on and finding solutions.

In the 2017 and 2018 budgets there were promises of new beds but what we have found a number of times is that those promises are not based on anything credible.  Many of the new beds promised are not new at all.  Some of them have been in operation and are being reannounced for the umpteenth time; others are reopened beds that have come from a previous round of budget cuts.  Let us not forget that $210 million was gouged out by this Government in their first year and $110 million has never come back.  This was a deliberate choice by the Liberals coming into government to address an issue to manage a tiny and very sustainable budget deficit at the expense of people's lives, their health, and the hospital staff who work in the hospitals.

We now have a situation where this minister still refuses to listen.  We have worse bed block, if possible, than we did last year.  A leaked email was read into parliament in April last year which made very clear amongst senior staff in the THS that the access block at the Royal Hobart Hospital had been worsening over the last five years - most of the time of this minister - and it had been particularly marked over the last quarter.  This was in April last year, and a year later it is worse than it was at that time in the early part of the year.  We have a situation where they point to risks to patients coming from that mismanagement -

Time expired.