The permanent funding and opening of Ward 4D and an additional three single rooms at the Launceston General Hospital has been welcomed by LGH staff.
Health Minister Michael Ferguson announced the measures on Wednesday at the LGH.
Ward 4D, which was closed in 2011, was opened indefinitely in July last year.
“These 12 beds are still open today, so we are not re-announcing the 12 beds, but we are making it very clear that they will now be permanently and specifically funded by the government,” Mr Ferguson said.
“They were only ever provided for dealing with patient flow issues on a seasonal basis,” he said.
He said the LGH experienced patient flow issues, particularly during last year’s winter flu season.
Mr Ferguson said the permanent opening would result in a stronger service with permanent staff. He said recruitment of nursing and medical staff would start immediately.
Three extra single rooms will also be funded and constructed.
Securing Ward 4D is expected to cost $880,000 this financial year, with a further $1 million capital investment this year for single rooms. Mr Ferguson said recruitment of ED specialists was ongoing.
Australian Medical Association Tasmania president Dr Stuart Day said the LGH ED was heavily reliant on locum specialists.
“Recruiting and retaining people in regional areas is difficult and that’s been accepted … that’s not to say the director of the ED isn’t trying to recruit people actively,” he said. Dr Day said the permanent opening of the new rooms and Ward 4D was “very welcomed”. He said congestion had eased since it was re-opened on a temporary basis last winter.
“Demand every year seems to be increasing, so will it be enough in 12 months, will wait to be seen,” he said.
“There’s options for the future, but there’s going to be periods of high demand at the hospital, [when] the hospital will be tight.”
LGH Medical Staff Association chairman Dr Scott Parkes welcomed the permanent openings, and said it would “cement and slightly expand” capacity.
“I think consistency and certainty in the future is really important, I think it’s a really good development,” Dr Parkes said. He said there was “still a way to go” to have the capacity needed to treat the patient load.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation state secretary Neroli Ellis welcomed the permanent openings.
“ANMF met with the Minister last week and lobbied for the additional single rooms at LGH and the ongoing security of employment for staff as permanent contracts, which provides security and will make it easier to recruit nurses,” Mrs Ellis said.