Health expansion floated in policy reforms

It is not new that our health system needs an overhaul. On Sunday, health policy analyst Martyn Goddard, as well as unions and the Royal Hobart Hospital Health Association, unveiled its health paper in a bid to provide adequate public health care to the state.

The report acknowledged that “Tasmania has the worst public hospital system in the country” and that “staffing and other resources have been run down, failing comprehensively to meet sharply rising demand”. It also detailed how recruitment was a major challenge for the state because of its “unsatisfactory public hospital system”.

Both the state government and Labor party welcomed the paper, noting that health is a priority for the majority of Tasmanians.

Indeed, the state government in this year’s state budget earmarked a record spend of $7 billion over four years, which will include $144.4 million to fund more hospital beds and staff. Labor has committed a further $88 million to ease the pressure.

In October 2011, under the leadership of a Labor government, then health minister Michelle O’Byrne announced $30 million in statewide health cuts, including about $2.4 million from the state’s mental health services. Elective surgeries were slashed to reduce spending by $8.5 million at the Launceston General Hospital.

In December 2016, data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showed that Tasmanians were waiting longer for elective surgery than anywhere else in Australia.

The health paper notes that Launceston should consider establishing a stand-alone public elective surgery centre in the city as well as other options for reducing elective surgery waiting lists. It also stated that  the LGH should immediately begin planning for new building works to allow room for expansion as well as establishing as many acute beds within the current hospital as it is physically capable of carrying.

The car park on the corner of Charles and Howick streets could be an ideal location for expansion or the stand-alone elective surgery centre.

With an election looming, it will be intriguing to watch the respective party policies unveiled around health in a bid to garner votes. Yes health care is a major issue in our state and affirmative action needs to be taken. But don’t use Tasmanians' health as a means to gain political power.

Only promise what can be legitimately delivered.