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Public Health System

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Tags: Health, Paramedics, Nurses

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, it is very hard to see the emotions pouring out of our nursing and paramedic workers, people who are striking and taking action on the streets and speaking in the community, standing up essentially on behalf of themselves and their colleagues but ultimately, they are speaking for the people who they care for every day. It is tragic if you have had conversations, as I have, with individuals who have spent their lives dedicated to caring for people as nurses or midwives or paramedics and who have simply burnt out.

They are burnt out because they had survived for the first period of time under the Liberals and the incredible successive pressure as budget on budget did not provide the necessary resources for the hospital and ambulance systems, but they have been brought undone by COVID 19. The COVID-19 pandemic, which started two years ago in 2020, was in the initial acute phase of that first wave hard enough but the period since the borders were opened in December last year has seen an increase of hundreds of thousands of cases of people being infected in Tasmania and tens of thousands of people needing acute health care. I do not have the figure but a very large number of people have been admitted to hospital or have needed home care.

This has had an incredible burden on the staff themselves because the numbers of people being absent - colleagues not able to work because they have been infected with COVID 19 and the extra pressure on people to turn up for work each day with less staff than they had even prior to COVID 19 but it has also had a flow-on effect to other parts of the health system.

Clearly, we have had a terrible reduction in elective surgeries that have been done but also in so many other areas. It has had a ramped-up effect on people who need access to the emergency department and who need emergency lifesaving care, and that is being seen every single day with the extensive ramping, the highest in Tasmania and higher than it has ever been. There are also the people who are not able to get lifesaving operations when they need them and who have been on the elective waiting list. Many people on the priority elective waiting list are also not seen on time.

We really hear the pain of doctors, nurses, midwives and paramedics and what frustrates us so much is that the Government has things it can do. It is not only required to be done, it can be done. I know many people had hoped that this Minister for Health would be the person who would be strong enough in the position of also being Premier to do what needs to be done, because it is clear that the funds can be found available if it is just a matter of priorities.

The Greens' alternative budget which we tabled this year makes it really clear that the Government still, despite the burden on the health system, despite the incredible strain on nurses, midwives and paramedics who are leaving Tasmania or leaving their career forever, the Government still refuses to do what can be done. That is unforgiveable. The Premier and Minister for Health needs to understand that there are choices here. We do have funds that are going to other places in the Budget that can no longer be prioritised if they ever could have been.

We cannot continue to make choices, to charge such low mining royalties. We are lower than any other state in Australia in the royalties that we charge mining companies. We have to stop thinking that Tasmania is a place that people do not come to unless we do not have laws and we do not charge a commensurate tax on profits and royalties which is what other states are doing. Just the minimum. We could be making $250 million in the Budget simply by looking at that area.

We also know that the land cuts that the Premier has introduced is costing this Budget $220 million over the forward Estimates. That is $220 million that should be going into the Health budget.

It is a choice that the Liberals are making to prioritise the needs of the wealthier people in the community over the desperate need for people to get lifesaving treatment in a timely manner. We know that there are opportunities for a rezoning profits tax, which other states have introduced, that would also provide the forward Estimates with $640 million. These are large figures at the Government's disposal if the Premier saw fit to make these decisions. Let us not pretend that nothing can be done.

I put it to the Premier and Minister for Health to stop talking about the things that you have funded. It is clearly not enough. It is not enough to talk about 247 paramedics who have been funded by this Government since 2014 when the Paramedics Association is very clear that there needs to be far more than that - 224 full-time equivalents are required to bring us up to standards. This is what the Greens have shown can be done in our alternative budget. The Premier needs to do it now.