House debates

Thursday, 16 August 2007


Hospitals; Tasmanian Government

12:32 pm

Photo of Michael FergusonMichael Ferguson (Bass, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise, having risen on Monday of this week in the House, to raise the dastardly situation where the Tasmanian government have prevented the Launceston General Hospital from purchasing a flow cytometer. I raised this matter publicly on the weekend. I am today pleased to advise that that decision has now been overturned. I learned on Tuesday morning that staff at the Launceston General Hospital were advised that approval was now given, only to find that later that day the state government, through its health minister, Lara Giddings, implied that that was not the case. So we now have this challenge going on between some eminent oncologists and haematologists in Launceston and the state Labor health minister. I know for sure whom our community believes in this matter.

We look forward nonetheless to the purchase of this flow cytometer because it will be very valuable for our community in the early diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of blood cancers. It is needed and it is warranted because the community raised the funds that were needed to purchase it—some $100,000. It is mean-spirited, to say the least, to have seen the community’s own initiative thwarted because of political reasons. I say ‘political reasons’ because I want to highlight right now to all members that there is a Tasmanian government agenda to centralise as much as possible health services in the south. If the equipment that I have been speaking about is approved, it changes little in the sense that the overall challenge continues. This issue is symbolic of the wider concerns of gradually downgrading and defunding the Launceston General Hospital in order to boost the Royal Hobart Hospital.

There is a need for more continued improvement in northern health services. That requires political will, dollars and the Tasmanian government to prioritise northern health services. We still need to see, having made the purchase, the approval for the LGH to administer bone marrow transplants using the new machine. We still need to see the employment of more medical oncologists at Launceston’s Holman Clinic. We still need to have overall proper resourcing of our wards. We still need to see the freeing up of surgical theatres and the reinstatement of LGH as a tertiary level hospital rather than just a regional hospital.

The fight continues unabated. The good thing about the Howard government’s intervention at the Mersey hospital is that it will relieve the Tasmanian government of its funding for that hospital, which will free up resources in a way which could mean as much as $40 million to $45 million every year being made available to other hospitals. I am certainly looking for improvements for Burnie and Launceston.

I also wish to raise an issue which again puts into question the honesty and the integrity of the Tasmanian government. I am very concerned that political games are being played out by the Tasmanian government in my home community. They want to put at risk very, very valuable education opportunities. We have two issues running here. We have the Australian government supporting an Australian technical college at the Inveresk site, which is in the flood zone. The Launceston City Council have been rallying to raise the necessary $39 million in funds to repair the levy system. Repairing the levies will mean that the whole suburb of Invermay and the precinct of Inveresk will be protected from a one-in-100- or 200-years flood. It is quite necessary to achieve this, and we have achieved in the sense that three levels of government have each committed $13 million to the overall cost.

So, Mr Deputy Speaker, you may ask me: what is the problem? The problem is that the Tasmanian government have now placed conditions on the acquittal of those funds. They are saying to the Launceston City Council: ‘We no longer wish to participate in helping you to restore flood protection for the city of Launceston until you take the Australian technical college off the books, move it away and refuse to allow it to be built.’ These bullying tactics are disgusting, ought not to be tolerated and have to be exposed. Members opposite who will stay silent and Labor candidates who will stay silent ought to hang their heads in shame for deliberately provoking a city council to hold back educational opportunities for young people. I have not had time to speak about the University of Tasmania, which has been placed in the same situation, but I say the Tasmanian government ought to back off. Support Launceston’s flood protection but support worthwhile education opportunities for our young people.