Accommodation for discharged patients the big issue in Question Time

It was a dizzying Question Time in the Tasmanian Parliament on Wednesday, as the government and the Opposition both accused each other of wanting to move patients into hotels.

Opposition Leader Rebecca White went tête-à-tête with Health Minister Michael Ferguson over the issue of a patient with an alleged history of self-harm being moved to “backpackers accommodation” after being discharged from the Royal Hobart Hospital last night.

Ms White asked Mr Ferguson how “widespread” this practice was for the Tasmanian Health Service.

The Health Minister did not initially confirm the Opposition Leader’s claim, instead saying he supported the THS in always working with people who were homeless by finding accommodation for them when they were leaving hospital.

Mr Ferguson then chose to highlight Labor’s medihotel policy, which proposes to house eligible patients in hotel accommodation, attended to by hospital staff.

“This is not even a white elephant,” Mr Ferguson said.

“This is White’s elephant.”

Upon further questioning, the minister did confirm that a patient was moved to short-term accommodation after a clinical judgment was made, with the patient’s consent.

He also said the patient in question “seemingly” presented to the RHH emergency department with symptoms not relating to mental health.

A statement from the THS later corroborated much of what Mr Ferguson said in Parliament.

Ms White was not finished pressing Mr Ferguson, though.

“How many mental health patients have been moved into backpackers accommodation due to bed-block,” she asked.

Mr Ferguson replied that Labor was “trivialising homelessness for political purposes”.

“This is the question the Opposition Leader asks when she has nowhere else to go,” he said.

Meanwhile, Greens leader Cassy O’Connor asked several questions of Premier Will Hodgman regarding the sale of Sustainable Timber Tasmania’s plantation assets.

Ms O’Connor reminded the premier that he had committed to a ‘no privatisation’ agenda when he was elected and that the sale of 28,000 hectares of plantation assets did not accord with this.

Mr Hodgman said he rejected the “characterisation” by Ms O’Connor.

“What we are talking about here is the sale of the trees, not the land,” he said.

“It’s as simple as that.”