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Want of Confidence in Minister for Health

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 27 September 2018

Tags: Health, Ambulance Ramping, Ambulances

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, the Greens have stood here for the last four-and-a- half years and have spoken consistently on these issues. It is a crying shame for the people who work in the public health system in Tasmania and for the patients who are caught up with the 45 per cent increase in demand at the Royal Hobart Hospital that has occurred under this minister because he fails to listen.

He fails to listen but that hides what is going on behind the scenes. He fails to listen to his consultants whom he pays a lot of money. He fails to listen to the academics who do fantastic reports on the problems in access and treatment for people in the public health system in Tasmania. He fails to listen to actuaries, accountants, financial advisors and economists in KPMG who write reports for the minister about the health system. He has failed to be honest with the Tasmanian Parliament and the people of Tasmania, budget after budget. The Greens have consistently pointed out the systematic underfunding in the hospital budget to peg it to the increase in demand.

In the paper today is exactly what we have been talking about: that this minister has persistently stood here and told fib after fib year after year. He has pilloried the Greens for being the only voice in parliament that has brought to the attention of the House the systematic failure to keep up to date with the costs of medicines, of hospital equipment and the cost of payment conditions for staff and salaries. All of these things have gone up year on year, along with the demand from Tasmanians for the increase in the hospital system services.

That is a complex story; there is no doubt about it. We have always acknowledged that the health portfolio is one of the most difficult portfolios, but this minister has known all the way along about something that could have made his passage in this role so much easier. That is, he could have taken the advice of people working on the frontline. He could have listened to them and they have been talking to him.

The member for Bass, Ms O'Byrne, was talking about Dr O'Keeffe. Dr O'Keeffe was one of the most recent in a long line of highly respected health professionals in Tasmania who has called out the terrible situation we have in the health system because of a minister who is doing two things. He is failing to listen and consult the staff about the changes that need to be made and failing to increase the budget to keep up with the basic increase in demand from Tasmanians who need to access services.

The reason this is a complex story is because there is an underlying push that is driving people increasingly into the hospital system. That push is because this minister and this Liberal Government, which came into office in 2014 promising to bring Tasmanians the best health by 2025, have systematically taken every opportunity to remove the structural legislative changes, the structural population health strategies, that would have helped push down the massive bulge we have in Tasmania of people needing more emergency and hospital services. We are an older, sicker, more overweight population with more chronic diseases than other parts of Australia.

The minister chose not to bring in smoking legislation that would have made a difference in that area. He chose not to bring in strategic, systemic policies that would push down on the fast-food industry, on Coca-Cola, Schweppes and all of the other junk drink industries which are damaging children's diets. These are things that parents need support with.

The minister has failed to increase the basic running costs of hospital. We are not talking about new beds; we are talking about the basics of the running costs of hospitals. He has failed to make those increases. The wheels are falling off the wagon. What a surprise that things are blowing out.

We have ambulance ramping, we have desperate doctors and nurses rallying outside Parliament. It is no surprise that other things that have happened. Only in January last year, teaching downgrades are of great concern in the Launceston General Hospital. LGH could face difficulties in recruiting enough doctors after training accreditation for internal medicine was downgraded.

In August last year, the Royal Australian New Zealand College of Psychiatrists had to remove three psychiatry trainees from the Royal Hobart Hospital because of problems in relation to Occupational Health and Safety training welfare and patient safety. These accreditation issues - and there are a number of others that I can't bring to mind - are a result of chronic starvation of basic funds. Teaching components and the quality of teaching simply cannot be assured by these professional colleges to their trainee registrars.

The minister has, at every opportunity, hidden the evidence from Tasmanians, of his failure to listen to the evidence of academics and the concerns of his staff. The Deloitte report last year into the operations of the Tasmanian Health Service Executive, for example, the minister withheld that, despite the fact that we knew it was with him. He was hiding Tasmanians from the truth about the concerns with the Tasmanian Health Service.

Concerns that were voiced at the very start of the structure and the manner in which he went about having a control and command approach to that system. The Tasmanian health system structure was a failure, the minister refused to release the information and hid it until the bitter end when everybody could see what a disaster it was and we finally got the restructure we needed to have from the beginning. If only the health professionals had been listened to.

We have no confidence in this minister's ability to listen. We have no confidence in this minister's ability to be honest with Tasmanians. We have no confidence in his ability not to hide the truth and obstruct right to information access requests. It is a ludicrous situation when we have a health system where people cannot get the most basic information about what is going on. As a tiny example, a really important issue is the information that is available on the Health department's website. There used to be better information on the Health department's website but that has been dropped back. We should know all of the information, it should be available in real time. We have the ability to have an open health system so people can know what is happening with elective surgery lists and the numbers of people on the second list.