Launceston General Hospital emergency department funding welcomed by advocacy group

Consumer and Community Engagement Council Northern chairman Peter O' Sullivan, with Health Minister Michael Ferguson at Wednesday's funding announcement. Picture: Paul Scambler
Consumer and Community Engagement Council Northern chairman Peter O' Sullivan, with Health Minister Michael Ferguson at Wednesday's funding announcement. Picture: Paul Scambler

Funding to support emergency department staff would not have come without industrial action from unions, according to a hospital consumer advocacy group.

On Wednesday Health Minister Michael Ferguson revealed details for a $1.5 million support package, designed to relieve pressures at Launceston General and Royal Hobart hospital emergency departments. 

Consumer and Community Engagement Council Northern chairman Peter O' Sullivan said he didn’t believe the additional funding would have come, if it wasn’t for the actions of union members. 

“I think it is totally dependent,” Mr O’Sullivan said. 

“The unions represent the people at the coalface and their concerns need to be taken very seriously.

“That is not to say that the government has not been listening, but the position of staff within the emergency department is something that affects the entire hospital.

“The actions that the unions have taken, they are having an impact and this funding is evidence of that.”

The six month support package will feature:

  • Patient flow support teams established at the RHH and the LGH, led by senior emergency medicine specialists with additional nurse support
  • Streamlined admission processes
  • Increased on-call resources to assist with patient flow during periods of high demand
  • Extended hours for the pathology service and increased on-call resources to help care to be provided faster
  • Boosted cleaning capacity to improve bed turnover, as well as more on-call resourcing, during periods of high demand

The package has been welcomed by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine. 

ACEM president Dr Simon Judkins said the announcement presented an opportunity to work in collaboration with the government, hospital leadership and health department executives, to “realise improvements to patients’ experiences of care”. 

ACEM Tasmania faculty chairman Dr Brian Doyle said the package represented a “good first step, with more work to be done”. 

Consumer and Community Engagement Council Northern chairman Peter O' Sullivan, with Health Minister Michael Ferguson at Wednesday's funding announcement. Picture: Paul Scambler

Consumer and Community Engagement Council Northern chairman Peter O' Sullivan, with Health Minister Michael Ferguson at Wednesday's funding announcement. Picture: Paul Scambler

“Continuing to build capacity into the overall hospital system in order to provide proper care for the extra patients is the key,” Dr Doyle said.

“ACEM would welcome working with the secretary of the Department of Health, Michael Pervan, on mitigating and addressing existing demand pressures as our members are on the frontline and are best placed to offer evidence-based practical approaches.”

ACEM has been outspoken in calling for solutions to access block and improving models of care for patients with acute mental and behavioural conditions. 

The Tasmanian branch of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation launched industrial action in March, in response to concerns raised by union members over heavy workloads they deemed unsafe, unsustainable and to be compromising patent care. 

Daily vigils have been held outside the LGH emergency department since July 4, and was escalated on Tuesday with support of the Health and Community Services union.  

Mr O’Sullivan said he believed the newly announced support package would help staff working in emergency departments. 

“We support any initiatives the government takes in terms of improving patient care and this is a good example of that,” he said. 

“If staff here [LGH] are able to get people out of bed a lot quicker and put them into here [transit lounge] waiting to be taken home, they can release the beds and people can move into those beds. 

“So I think this is a good initiative.”

The $1.5 million will be shared evenly between LGH and RHH and is in addition to the government’s commitment of $757 million for the overall health budget, over six years. 

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