Wednesday, 22 August 2018
Tasmania: Health Care
There's a health crisis in Tasmania and, frankly, both the Liberal and Labor parties are to blame. To see it for yourself you only need to wander down Liverpool Street past the Royal Hobart Hospital, where it is all too common to see ambulances queued all the way up the ramps because they're waiting for beds. According to the relevant union, it's the new normal. Moreover, people are waiting months or sometimes years for elective surgery, with over 7,000 people currently on the elective surgery waiting list and nearly 30,000 on the list just to see a specialist. And, of course, there are those who wait hours and even days in the emergency department because they simply can't get a bed in a ward. It doesn't have to be this way; although it will be until whoever is in government gets serious about fixing things.
A good start would be more funding, because health in Tasmania is still grossly underfunded. The current Liberal government might crow about record investment, but the fact is there's still not enough when ambulances are ramped and people are waiting hours or days in emergency. While I did manage to secure $340 million for the Royal rebuild and $325 million in a boosted Tassie health system, it shouldn't be left up to a federal politician to go chasing money from Canberra for what is the responsibility of a state government, a state government that also needs to plan better and have the vision to make big, bold reform. That's why I call, again, on the Tasmanian government to close a northern hospital, because it is simply absurd that we have three hospitals in the north of the state for half of the population and only one in the south. Yes, I know there are three marginal seats in the north, but that's why we need politicians to put the public interest ahead of their political self-interest.
Planning also means looking well into the future and anticipating the distant needs of our health system, not just applying bandaids to get us to the next election. Hence, it's unfathomable that neither party, Liberal or Labor, has committed to stage 2 of the Royal Hobart Hospital rebuild that would see a dedicated mental health facility, and it defies all logic that mental health more broadly remains so neglected. For instance, we desperately need more acute mental health beds at the Royal Hobart Hospital right now, as well as increased support in the community, such as more CAT teams and supported accommodation.
In closing, let me simply say that the Tasmanian public health system is in a deep hole, born of many years of neglect under both Labor and Liberal governments. Mercifully, there are solutions at hand. We just need a state government to finally come along and seize those opportunities.