No hurry to fix health crisis

JUST before former state Labor resources minister David Llewellyn was toppled at the 2010 poll, he became so angry with a particular newspaper journalist that she was summoned to his office to be told about his huge workload.

Evidently the said newspaper journalist had implied in a story that Mr Llewellyn's idea of an imminent decision about Asian woodchip markets was starkly different from that of an expectant community.

It was only weeks to the state election and everyone was a bit tense.

Mr Llewellyn was at pains to impress on the journalist that the ``imminent'' decision that a large number of people were depending on to help survive financially for a few more months had not stalled because he was lazy or sitting around twiddling his thumbs.

It came down in the end to Mr Llewellyn's interpretation of the word ``imminent'' and how that fitted with the real world.

His ``imminent'' was on a par with my brother's concept of time when he uses his favourite expression ``the other day'' to pinpoint an event.

Jeff's ``other day'' can be any time from the night before to two years ago.

An already struggling woodchip industry hoped and believed that ``imminent'' meant next week not in two or three months or six months or not at all.

But the political and public interpretation of words like urgent, immediate, crisis, bailout, even rescue package are months apart - literally - as Tasmania's struggling public hospital system has discovered.

Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek flew in like a white knight - or at least a knight-ess - on June 6 this year to say that she was deeply concerned about the state of Tasmania's public health system.

She was supposedly so worried about our elective surgery crisis caused by government budget cuts that had closed operating theatres that she was back in Tasmania only nine days later to announce a rescue package.

Ms Plibersek said at the time that the federal government was taking ``urgent'' steps to head off a health ``crisis''.

That was early June and since then we have been waiting and waiting and waiting for the urgently needed money to flow.

But it seems that both tiers of government which have evidently been tied up discussing the fine detail of the $325 million rescue package since June have the same loose concept of time as my brother.

It has left people like Launceston General Hospital director of surgery Berni Einoder, a seasoned political campaigner, feeling let down and abandoned.

First Professor Einoder and his colleagues believed that the LGH would get $31 million for elective surgery from the $325 million rescue package - they greeted that with joy because it was about what was needed.

Then they found out that the $31 million was to be distributed over four years and shared between the state's three major public hospitals.

That means that the LGH's share will be about $2.6 million each year for four years - better than nothing but nowhere near enough to solve the elective surgery crisis.

 And the LGH and the Royal Hobart Hospital and the North-West Regional are still waiting for the money that they needed nine months ago when cost cutting was first imposed.

It is understood that some kind of announcement could come in about a fortnight.

It will then take months for the hospitals to find staff let go at the time of the cost cuts to cover the extra funded cases.

Don't take a politician or public servant to war - everyone will be dead by the time they decide how to deal with the crisis.


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