The Tasmanian Government’s plan to build a better health system is all about providing the right care, in the right place, at the right time.
To ensure we achieve this, it is vital we continue to consult with experts and health stakeholders on how best to deliver this. That’s exactly what we’ve been doing and will continue to do.
We undertook the most thorough consultation on our health system ever when we came to government in 2014, complete with public forums right across the state. We also took detailed submissions from consumers, key groups like the AMA, ANMF and Mental Health Council, and individual health professionals, including doctors, nurses, allied health staff, kitchen staff and cleaners who work in hospitals.
And since being re-elected, I have met regularly with a number of key stakeholders to continue the conversation about our health system – including the staff in our hospitals, professional groups, colleges, and importantly, members of the Tasmanian community.
Put simply - we must never stop listening.
In our first term of government, our focus was on rebuilding the health system after decades of under-investment and budget cuts.
We reopened all wards previously closed, delivered more than 120 new beds, hired more than 600 FTE frontline health staff, and reduced elective surgery waiting times.
There is more to be done, and that’s why we are investing a record amount into health over the next five-and-a-half years.
The Hodgman Liberal Government is investing $757 million of additional funding to open nearly 300 new hospital beds, deliver new services, and hire more than 1300 more frontline staff statewide.
It is well known that there are demographic challenges in Tasmania and demand pressures on health systems right across Australia at the moment.
That’s why we are delivering immediate support, in addition to our long-term plan, like our $1.5 million Emergency Department support package for the Launceston General Hospital and Royal Hobart Hospital.
This is relieving pressure on those two EDs by delivering more support for frontline staff and improving patient flow.
But, importantly, a good health system is not and cannot be all about hospital beds and acute services.
We are also committed to preventative health initiatives, and focused on striking the right balance between acute and sub-acute care as well as hospital in the home.
The government strongly welcomes representations made by the Mental Health Council of Tasmania last week, which are perfectly in line with our Rethink Mental Health long-term plan.
We strongly support community-based mental health services, which play an integral role in our mental health system.
It has largely been undervalued.
Our Rethink plan has unanimous support and is being implemented now.
Organisations like the Mental Health Council of Tasmania play an important role in helping the government improve the system, including through the Mental Health Integration Taskforce, chaired by our Chief Psychiatrist, which is all about building solutions.
The work of the taskforce will be crucial in guiding our actions to improve the integration of mental health services, including in primary and/or community-based settings.
The taskforce includes key mental health stakeholders and features GP representation.
Our $95 million mental health plan will provide 25 new community-based mental health beds to support the Royal Hobart Hospital and deliver more care for patients statewide, and we will be delivering new adolescent units in Launceston and Hobart for the first time in Tasmania. We are currently building these buildings.
As part of our plan, we are also providing a $3.3 million boost to the community sector to support better health in our communities.
In the preventative health space, we are continuing to work in partnership with the community to help Tasmanians lead healthy lifestyles, reduce tobacco use, improve diets and increase physical exercise.
Our investment of $8.6 million for the Healthy Tasmania Strategic Plan, which has now been extended to 2022, provides guidance for the immediate and longer-term preventative health action of the government.
That is in addition to the $70 million we already invest into preventative programs each year across government.
We will continue to take expert advice on preventative health matters, and we support educational campaigns that encourage Tasmanians to adopt a balanced diet and active lifestyle.
Our plan for health is about getting the balance right with preventative measures, acute care and community-based support to make Tasmanians lives better.
We will continue to work constructively with any and all stakeholders to provide Tasmanians with the care they deserve, and to support our hardworking staff in a world-class health system.
We've come a long way in just four years, and we have a strong plan to keep the improvements coming.
- Michael Ferguson is the Tasmanian Health Minister.