Tasmanian peak health bodies call for additional healthcare funds

CRISIS: Frank Nicklason, Mariane Catchpole, Martyn Goddard, Chris Middleton, Emily Shepherd and Tim Jacobson call for urgent hospital funding.

CRISIS: Frank Nicklason, Mariane Catchpole, Martyn Goddard, Chris Middleton, Emily Shepherd and Tim Jacobson call for urgent hospital funding.

The state desperately needs an additional 200 beds to aid its “unacceptable” public hospital system, according to Tasmania’s peak health bodies.

Representatives from the Australian Medical Association, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, Health and Community Services Union, Royal Hobart Hospital Medical Staff Association and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners came together on Monday to call for additional funding for the state’s healthcare system.

A new report from the parties said Tasmania had the worst performing public hospital system in the nation by many measures, but Health Minister Michael Ferguson said this was “rubbish”. 

A critical shortage of beds, bed block, a chaotic flu season, a "dire" mental health situation, staff shortages and ambulance ramping were just a few of the issues mentioned as facing hospitals. 

The report found bed block occurred at twice the national average in Tasmania and shortages could lead to the avoidable deaths of up to 80 people a year. 

Health Minister Michael Ferguson

Health Minister Michael Ferguson

Mr Ferguson said he acknowledged there was more to be done, but said the government was already opening up additional beds.

“We have got record investment into the health system here in Tasmania … and that’s enabled us to put on more doctors, more nurses, more allied health professionals, more paramedics,” he said. 

“Tasmania is meeting all of its obligations under GST funding but we’re also doing more and we’re dipping into more and more state-sourced funds.” 

Health policy analyst Martyn Goddard said he had concerns over the toll the crisis could have on patients. 

“There is no reason why Tasmania should have to put up with by far the worst system in the country when we are being funded to provide one of the best,” he said. 

Australian Medical Association state chairman Chris Middleton said the entire state was under-powered and under-resourced. 

“We simply can’t go on the way we are at the moment … the worst case scenario is that the system will be unable to cope and patients will die,” Dr Middleton said. 

ANMF acting state secretary Emily Shepherd said with the hospital now at “crisis point”, it was becoming difficult to attract staff. 

“There are instances where we’re actually not getting one single application,” Ms Shepherd said.

“[Applicants] are not assured of being able to provide quality patient care because there are significantly not enough nurses employed to baseline the rosters.” 

Opposition Leader Rebecca White said the statement from health professionals could not be ignored, especially as the “impending chaos” of winter approached. 

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