Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, there is no doubt that the pressure on staff in the Launceston General Hospital is extreme at the moment. It has been very serious for a number of years, so much so that the Australian Nurses and Midwives Federation (Tasmania) had taken the Launceston General Hospital to the Industrial Commission to seek some justice for the hardship of conditions of staff who work there and to enforce safe workable ratios and staff numbers in the Emergency Department and in other high-pressure wards.
We cannot continue expecting that people who are working every day under such high pressures with patient loads that are building can and ought to continue to do that when it puts their own health and wellbeing at jeopardy. When it influences the health and wellbeing of staff, by having to often work double shifts, or who are called in repeatedly because the whole nursing pool is too small, then it means that it has a flow-on effect to patient care quality and patient outcomes and to potentially negative health outcomes for patients. This is well-documented, it is not a matter of speculation.
When nurses have to work double shifts it creates a similar physiological effect as though they had been drinking a number of glasses of wine. It is well-documented that the impacts of working when you are extremely fatigued do have an effect on your capacity to make clear and logical decisions. We are very concerned at the situation with nursing shortages and the ratios that nurses have to work under in Tasmania and we will look very closely to the budget to make sure it is being appropriately resourced over the next forward estimates.
It is also important to recognise that the Emergency Department at the Launceston General Hospital is experiencing a significant level of acute demand because of the high numbers of COVID-19 cases and because of that people are being encouraged to reconsider the need to visit the Emergency Department and while it might be appropriate for everyone to consider that, when you have got people who are basically being turned away because it is under-staffed, it is a problem. We have also got an outbreak of COVID-19 on the 5D medical ward and it is now, I understand, closed to new admissions, with eight patients and two staff at the last notice about that, a few days ago, being COVID-19 positive. This is obviously a problem for the hospital.
I also want to reflect on the Commission of Inquiry and the situation at the Launceston General Hospital overall. We have had, in that hospital, the worst of all stories, and the worst of all experiences, that are unfolding through the gruelling testimony of victim survivors and family members of victim survivors at the Commission of Inquiry.
The question I asked the Minister, and I appreciate him confirming that we have had allegations that a number of people who made formal complaints about staff with clinical responsibilities, and who have made complaints about the failure of hospital administrators to listen, and to act on complaints, whether those practitioners have been reported to the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency. I asked former minister Courtney about this last year. I think it is really important that the Minister puts on record are any of the nursing staff who are accused of not acting appropriately - allegations that are now under investigation in the Commission of Inquiry - are any of those nursing, clinical or administrative staff in any way still working in the Launceston General Hospital?
There is a culture at the Launceston General Hospital, and there is no doubt about that, a culture which is something which has to be changed. The Commission of Inquiry is part of that process, but it has a long history. There have been allegations that were sent to me and Ms O'Connor and that we spoke about before the Commission of Inquiry which is why we pushed for a Commission of Inquiry.
In addition to the abhorrent behaviour actions of James Griffin there are a number of other convicted paedophiles who committed crimes of that type, and they did spend a lot of time and were indeed employed at the Launceston General Hospital, or in the case of John Wayne Millwood who was convicted of child sex offences as a Practice Manager at the Launceston Pathology, and Dr David Henty, also convicted of child sex offences, provided medical services to the Education Department.
It is concerning that there was testimony that was made in the cases of both of those men. Written testimony that was prepared by people in the Launceston General Hospital -
Mr SPEAKER - The member's time has expired.
Dr WOODRUFF - We need the minister to be clear that that culture is being attended to.