Part two of health reporter JESSICA WILLARD's sit down with Health Minister Sarah Courtney. Part one can be found here.
JW:In regards to Calvary's bid for a private co-located hospital, we have seen some developments with the government's preferred site. What will happen to the health department's Adult Community Mental Health Services, if this goes ahead?
SC:Well there is obviously a lot of water that needs to go under the bridge first. But I think this is a really exciting proposal for Northern Tasmania. To be able to have a co-located private hospital that will see us, not just compliment, but help bolster the services we have available for our community is very exciting. I know the proposal includes a number of areas, particularly things such as palliative care, that are really important to our community. But, alongside the fact that we are starting and engaging in the LGH master planning program, there is great opportunity here to be able to ensure that should this go ahead - I will make sure it complements the LGH really well.
JW:So those adult mental health services won't end, they will just be moved out of that building?
SC: I have no expectation that the provision of Calvary will see service delivery in Northern Tasmania impacted negatively at all. In fact I think should this go ahead as expectations are, that this will be a very positive thing for our community.
JW: There have been criticisms the plan is developing within "dreaded and stifling" silos. Can you ensure that stakeholders will be consulted as the project moves forward?
SC: I have every expectation that any process, and future processes, will have really good engagement. That's with clinicians, that's with patients and that's with the broader community. Because we all have a great love in our community for the LGH and the entire precinct around it, and it is really important that the entire community has input into it.
JW:Is Ward 4K on track, with stage one to be completed by October?
SC: I am really excited that we are going to see, by the end of the year, Ward 4K - the new stage one of it - having patients in those beds. Obviously there are further stages ongoing with that development, also with the women and children's area as well.
JW:So, by October we will be seeing the adolescent unit operational - including mental health admissions?
SC: In terms of the clinical aspects of the opening, we are working with the appropriate clinicians at the moment in terms of the delivery from each of those beds.
JW:Can you provide an update on the government's Controlled Access Scheme? It's been about two year since it was implemented. Do you think it's working?
SC: Well I think it's working, because this approach is making sure that we are providing a compassionate approach with a very sensitive issue. The fact that we have a provision that is supported by the government to these products, is a positive for those in our community that are suffering. My understanding and advise is that at the moment it has been provided to 10 Tasmanians.
JW: I understand preventative health will fall largely under the new Mental Health and Wellbeing portfolio. However, early intervention and proven preventative health strategies have been recognised as one of the most cost-effective ways for government's to address rising demand on acute services. As Health Minister, will you prioritise preventative health?
SC:This is really exciting having Jeremy Rockliff taking that part of the portfolio. Because this is about a government not drawing a line between the two portfolio areas, but providing a greater focus into preventative health and the support of mental health as well. We know that we see huge dividends for our community when we focus on that.
JW:The government spends about $70 million a year on preventative health. Do you recognise that Tasmania is lagging behind on preventive health spending, despite having the worst health outcomes in the country?
SC: We know that Tasmania has a number of challenges when it comes to health. And we also know with the complexity of our cases, that we need to be spending money in the provision of acute care, as we are seeing in terms of pressures within our hospitals. But from the perspective of going forward, I am looking forward to working with Jeremy and I know he is a keen advocate in this area. I will be working closely with him to make sure we are getting the right outcomes, for our community.
JW:What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions are around the Health portfolio?
SC: I think the misconception is the fact that this is a portfolio that no one wants. I was really humbled to have been given the opportunity for this portfolio. I understand the significance of it, to the outcomes of our state. Importantly, the health outcomes of Tasmanians and I take that responsibility really seriously. I have been really encouraged in the last week by how many people have approached me and talked about their wonderful experiences they have had, with our healthcare system. I don't want to shy away from the very real and very significant challenges we are facing. Particularly, in some areas. But I don't want that to overshadow the great work that is being done every single day with enormous dedication, by highly capable men and women. Because it is something we should be really proud of.
JW:Lastly, how will health be different under your leadership, compared to Michael Ferguson?
SC: Firstly I would like to thank Michael for the work he did in the Health portfolio. From my perspective, I am coming to it from a fresh set of eyes. I am looking forward to engaging and forging new relationships with all stakeholders, and with the broader community, to make sure we have a health system that is delivering for everyone.