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St Helens Private Hospital - Effect of Closure

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 10 May 2023

Tags: Health


Healthscope's closure of its 39-bed mental health facility in Hobart, including the state's only 8-bed mother and baby unit is a disaster. These essential services are life-saving and currently irreplaceable.

Your response to date has been weak. Just three beds will be dedicated for mothers at the Royal Hobart Hospital, displacing three inpatient beds the hospital does not have spare. Most devastating for patients and staff has been your non-response on the other high-level mental health care that St Helens Private Hospital provides. Core business for this critical mental health hospital is preventing self-harm and suicides. You plan to push St Helens mental health patients out to an over-capacity NGO sector which does not and cannot provide the very effective TMS and other specialist therapies St Helens gives. St Helens is a centrally located site just across from existing THS facilities.

If the Labor and Liberal parties can get together and spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a stadium, they can get together and fund a critical life-saving clinic. Will you commit to investigating the purchase of this site as a public health facility?



Mr Speaker, I thank the member for her question. We are working and have been very proactive in this space, Dr Woodruff. I thought you could acknowledge that at the very least.

St Helens is a private hospital facility. The decision by Healthscope to close the St Helens Private Hospital is very disappointing. What we have been able to do, acknowledging that it is a private hospital, is that when the private system lets people down, the public system steps in. That is exactly what we have done and will continue to do as we work through this challenging time.

I am advised that the hospital has an average occupancy of 24 patients. This is a commercial decision by Healthscope as a for-profit company and it is disappointing and understandably a cause for concern for many Tasmanians. As I say, when the private system lets the community down, the government steps in to help, and that is exactly what we have done. To achieve this, we are working hard with our partners in the wider health system to explore all available options to manage the impact of the closure to ensure the health system is ready to meet any additional demand for in-hospital services.

Mr Speaker, as the only mother and baby unit in the state, we fully understand how important this service is for Tasmanian families. Planning is well under way to establish a public mother and baby unit in the Tasmanian Health Service by mid-June prior to the closure of St Helens. We are also having discussions with other providers about their ability to establish this service in the future. I would like to recognise -

Ms O'CONNOR - Mr Speaker, point of order, under Standing Order 45, relevance. With respect, perhaps the Premier could go to the question about the mental health beds and whether the Government will consider purchasing the site.

Mr SPEAKER - As I have said many times, I can only remind the Premier about relevance. I am sure he is getting there.

Mr ROCKLIFF - Thank you, Mr Speaker. As a government, we are committed to providing mothers and their infants with a suite of healthcare options to best meet their needs. The establishment of the mother and baby unit within the Royal Hobart Hospital is just the starting point. The three public mother and baby unit beds will be located within ward K6 transition to home unit at the Royal Hobart Hospital.

It is also important to understand that the state Government currently contracts two beds for public patients to access the mother and baby unit at St Helens, with seven public patients submitted throughout 2022-23, a total of 177 patients with an average length of stay of 9.6 days. Planning is under way to ensure the continuative expansion of those public funded beds, which will increase to three public beds in individual secure rooms for mothers experiencing psychiatric conditions such as postnatal depression and anxiety. We have appointed a highly experienced clinician to assist in setting up the unit, which is set to open in mid-June -

Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Mr Speaker, under Standing Order 45 relevance. Premier, I really ask that you draw your attention to that question. There are many people watching this who are very concerned at the lack of focus on mental health facilities.

Mr SPEAKER - Member for Franklin, you have made the point of order on relevance. You do not have to repeat the question. Sit down, please. I will remind the Premier of the point of order, which is relevance to the question., and allow the Premier to -

Ms O'CONNOR - Excuse me, Mr Speaker. On the point of order, Standing Order 181 allows for a member to give a point of order to be heard and then for you to make a judgment. Dr Woodruff had barely got her point of order out of her mouth.

Mr SPEAKER - First all, that is not a point of order. Nevertheless, the point of order is relevance. I have accepted that point of order. I will remind the Premier of that.

Dr Woodruff - I have not finished saying what it was about.

Mr SPEAKER - Order. Premier, conclude, please.

Dr Woodruff - On behalf of mental health patients, please answer the question.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Mr ROCKLIFF - I am answering the question with respect, Dr Woodruff.

Mr Speaker, we are also working hard with our partners in the wider health system to explore all available options to manage the impact of the closure and to ensure the health system is ready to meet any additional demand for inpatient and outpatient services. Discussions are under way with other providers about their ability to establish similar services in the future.

I assure the Tasmanian community that our Government is doing everything in its power to ensure patients continue to have access to the right mental healthcare and treatment for their needs. We acknowledge that some of the patients will not necessarily have the high level of acuity typically seen in public inpatient services and their needs and preferences regarding their treatment and care may be better provided for within alternate subacute or community-based environments, such as the Peacock Centre, the Hobart Clinic, Hospital in the Home or other settings. That is why work has been undertaken with other providers and within the Tasmanian Health Service to explore more options so that patients can be provided with a suite of solutions to best meet their needs.

Your other question and you have raised this before -

Dr Woodruff - Buying the site.

Mr ROCKLIFF - Buying the site. We are not contemplating buying St Helens Private Hospital. This is a landlocked, ageing, heritage-listed hospital facility. It is not fit for purpose for Healthscope and private healthcare, and is not fit for purpose for public health services either. Okay? Up front and honest with you about that. It is simply not fit for purpose.

Tasmanian patients and our health staff deserve contemporary and modern facilities. That is why you are seeing all the work that is being undertaken across the state -

Dr Woodruff - We should see that assessment. We just do not accept that you cannot do something.

Mr SPEAKER - Member for Franklin, if you cannot sit there and listen to the answer, then I will get around to asking you to leave.

Mr ROCKLIFF - That is why work is being undertaken with other providers within the Tasmanian Health Service to explore more options when it comes to those facilities. I might not have been very clear about that, but we are committed, as you have seen, to modern, contemporary, 21st century health environments for patients, most importantly, but also our hardworking staff as well. We are already committed to building fit-for-purpose best-practice mental health facilities.

We recently opened Peacock Centre, which is a cause for considerable celebration. We have plans for a second mental centre at St Johns Park, and two mental precincts in the north and the north-west. I spoke more recently about the master plan in the north-west.