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Tasmanian Health System

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 10 May 2023

Tags: Health

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, I want to speak today about some of the issues that are occurring in the health system, acknowledging that right at the moment we have such great focus on the closure of St Helens Private Hospital and the Greens will be speaking in detail about that in private members' time today.

I now want to reflect on the tragedies that are occurring in the hospitals and the evidence for that decline. They stem from the Liberal Government's failure - or refusal, actually - to invest properly in health and to be transparent about the impacts it is having on the health system. It is extremely shocking and sad that so many of the tragedies that are occurring in the public health system are happening more frequently, as we understand from personal stories that are released in the newspapers and from coronial inquiries.

Recently we had the release of the coroner's report about the incredibly shocking and sad death of a 19-year-old who arrived at the Launceston General Hospital in the early hours of the morning in June two years ago, who had to wait hours in a lot of pain to be seen and even longer to be diagnosed. At that point the child was transported to the Royal Hobart Hospital it was too late and they died.

It was only months ago now that a woman died at the Royal Hobart Hospital after being ramped for more than two hours. Kathleen Schramm, whose daughter spoke so movingly to the media, was in total agony as she passed away. Her daughter fought for her Mum to be seen and admitted into the hospital, particularly for her to have pain relief and the dignity of some privacy as she was dying, but could only watch on in horror as she died in a room where she was not even admitted, with just two paramedics caring for five patients.

Last year, we also saw the distressing case of a woman who died at the LGH after being ramped for more than nine hours. In media reporting at the time, the Health and Community Services Union said that unfortunately this was not an isolated incident. The union representative said:

We are unfortunately aware of several other incidents where patients have been unable to get a bed and passed away on the ramp.

We understand the health system is incredibly complex but these are the sorts of experiences that Australians cannot come to terms with happening on such a regular basis with such devastatingly critical reports from coroners and the obvious damage it is doing to paramedics and staff who are working as emergency responders and in the emergency department and the whole of the hospital system.

We know that those awful examples I gave are not the full extent of ramping deaths. We have tried asking the Premier about this numbers of times in parliament and he has refused to answer. We asked him about the fact that we do not get ramping data from the health stats dashboard, which we used to have. That is something the Premier could address today. I suspect the reason we do not get that data is because the information would be so devastating. The limited information that we get from the annual report shows that the rate of ramping, the offload delay greater than 15 minutes, has significantly increased over the past few years. In 2018-19 the rate at the Royal Hobart Hospital was 36 per cent and it went up last year to 43 per cent. That is an enormous increase when the Government's target should be just 15 per cent.

That is nothing compared to what is happening at the LGH, where the ramping there has gone up from 25 per cent in 2018-19 to nearly double that in just four years. Last year 41 per cent of ambulance arrivals at the LGH were ramped. The Premier does not want to admit it but we know from the research that has been done in other states that more ramping means more risks for patients and those appalling results directly connect to the serious decline we are seeing in our emergency departments.

The percentage of patients seen on time over the 12-month average in 2018 was already concerning at just 65 per cent. Last April, the number of people reported to be seen on time plummeted to 52 per cent. That is a shocking decline and it shows the impact of nearly a decade now of under-resourcing by the Liberals and a reliance on the private health sector, on non-government organisations. When private health organisations such as Healthscope decide that is not worth maintaining buildings they just let them run down over time. They are usually buildings they have bought for a small amount, or a song, as has happened in other places in Tasmania, only to let them run down and then just walk away. They are walking away and handing the state the responsibility to pick up the pieces and the Premier must do that. The job of the Premier is to prioritise the things that Tasmanians care about.

This is not an unfixable problem. The situation with ramping and the situation with the lack of nurses and retention of nurses is fixable. The Greens funded these in our alternative budget last year. We understand that it can be done. It is a question of priorities.

The Government continues to demonstrate its priorities towards infrastructure spending on stadiums we do not want, rather than health facilities such as St Helens, and housing. They are all involved. Tradies working with utes and are building stuff. These can be and must be prioritised by the Premier in the upcoming Budget.