Co-located private and public hospitals at the LGH, along with a health precinct in the surrounding area, would help attract and retain specialists to the region, Launceston doctors say.
The opposition on Thursday pledged to facilitate a precinct and a new private hospital, co-located with the Launceston General Hospital, on the corner of Charles and Howick streets, if Labor won a majority government.
Opposition Leader Rebecca White said Labor would call for expressions of interest to build the co-located $200 million private hospital within the first six months of being elected.
“In addition to that, we would do a complete [$250,000] masterplan for the whole site, looking at what we need to do to upgrade infrastructure around the LGH to ensure that it meets current and future demands,” she said.
Thursday’s announcement from Labor came after The Examiner revealed an unsolicited proposal from Calvary for a private hospital at the site was already before the state government.
However, a spokesman for the Office of the Coordinator-General, which receives unsolicited proposals, said such proposals were confidential, meaning information could not be released.
Health Minister Michael Ferguson accused Labor of announcing the policy on the back on The Examiner’s Thursday front page, and said it would overlap the planned extension of the children’s ward. He said Labor’s plan would “put the entire (ward 4K) project at risk”.
Ms White dismissed the claim as “false and shallow”.
“The co-location would be designed so it would not interfere with the upgrade of the Launceston General Hospital,” she said.
“Labor has called for an open expression of interest process to make sure the design and service mix would complement the current layout of the LGH and its planned extensions.”
Australian Medical Association Tasmania president Dr Stuart Day said co-located public/private hospital set ups had “worked well in other areas and regions”.
“It seems a sensible approach from our point-of-view,” he said.
“State-of-the-art hospital facilities are essential in meeting the challenge of recruiting specialists and health professionals to regional areas.
“It potentially has the ability to attract more specialists and that in itself sures up training accreditation in the public hospital.”
Mr Ferguson said a proposal was already before the government for a co-located hospital at the LGH and that he was “open to any proposal which will deliver better health outcomes for Tasmanians”.
“Unlike Labor, we will not scrap a process already under way that was started in good faith. To do so could put at risk a significant proposal already on the table.”
When outlining Labor’s masterplan vision, Ms White said there had been talk of a co-located hospital set up in Launceston for many years.
“It’s about time that we took this more seriously, and that’s why, following months of discussions I’ve had in the North of the state and with health professionals, particularly peak medical bodies, we’ve decided to make an announcement of our intention, that if we are fortunate enough to be elected, our ambition is to see a co-located private hospital built alongside the LGH to support a wide variety of services for people in the North of the state.”
She said a Labor government would commit $250,000 towards the new masterplan. Construction of the private hospital, taking into account building and civil construction works, would cost about $200 million, Ms White said.
Labor would contribute the public land needed for the private hospital “in kind”, but the build would be funded by the successful bidder.
“We want to make sure we can think about important aspects, not just around the buildings, but also the car parking to ensure that people can access the services once they’re provided here.
“So as part of the masterplan for the precinct, we’ll be looking at traffic management and also car parking.”
A 2009 Productivity Commission report found public/private co-location allowed for the sharing of resources and infrastructure, which facilitated teaching and research.
Business community supports co-location plan
The Launceston Chamber of Commerce has backed the concept of a co-located private and public hospital structure for the city.
President Tim Holder said a more coordinated approach to developing health industries and services, and improving community health outcomes, was “central to a thriving city such as Launceston”.
He said the chamber was calling for “a spirit of bipartisanship” from all tiers of government.
“The formation of a regional health industry cluster that shares services, professional staff and expensive medical equipment, for example, makes a great deal of sense and is overdue,” he said.
"Working with NTDC, the chamber believes Launceston should be actively forming a health cluster strategy that extends beyond patient care to teaching, research and to developing a world-class centre of excellence that would lead to the commercialisation of ideas, breakthroughs and potentially manufacturing specialised medical equipment, such as specialised beds.”