Nurses say it's an "absolute disgrace" circumstances at the Launceston General Hospital have become so bad that doctors have had to write a letter to management demanding action.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Tasmanian branch secretary Emily Shepherd issued a statement this morning stressing that the issues at the hospital weren't new and had, in fact, escalated over the past two years.
Ms Shepherd said that the way in which the concerns of 22 emergency registrars at the LGH had been brought to light this week was "irrelevant".
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"That the situation has become so dire health professionals have had to make their concerns public in an effort to prompt action is an absolute disgrace," she said.
"What needs attention is the need for immediate action.
"The Tasmanian government, Department of Health and the Tasmanian Health Service ... must take action on what clinicians need to make it safe for them and importantly their patients, both now and for the longer term."
The ANMF has threatened to take the matter of access block and associated safety issues to the Tasmanian Industrial Commission if the THS "doesn't adequately address our members' concerns".
The comments followed a heated debate in the State Parliament yesterday, during which Premier Peter Gutwein accused Labor of helping the group of LGH doctors write the explosive letter - which Labor quoted from in the lower house on Tuesday - that claimed patients at the hospital had been dying unnecessarily due to bed block.
That the situation has become so dire health professionals have had to make their concerns public in an effort to prompt action is an absolute disgrace.Emily Shepherd, ANMF Tasmanian branch secretary
Opposition Leader Rebecca White labelled the Premier's remarks "outrageous".
Today, Mr Gutwein apologised for what he'd said, adding that the government was taking the contents of the letter seriously.
"If the registrars have taken offence to my comments that were directed at the Labor Party yesterday, then of course I'll apologise to them," he said.
"If there was genuine intent within the Labor Party to see outcomes rather than seeking a 'gotcha' moment, they would have provided that letter through the normal course of business."
Ms White said the Premier's apology wasn't good enough.
"The Premier gave a half-apology this morning after falsely accusing doctors of not writing their own letter yesterday," she said. "The least the Premier can do is trust them and respect their views and act on it to fix it."
Health Minister Sarah Courtney said more than 100 additional full-time equivalent employees had been appointed at the LGH over the past 12 months.
"We are boosting services, investing in infrastructure and looking at how we can put in place a system to support our staff and boost patient flow," she said.
One of the key areas the doctors identified in their letter as needing urgent improvement was the lack of beds at the LGH. They urged the THS to utilise all available beds in the region, including those in private hospitals.
Australian Medical Association Tasmanian president Helen McArdle said on ABC Radio this morning that there weren't enough inpatient beds statewide to account for demand.
"With additional funds, additional building can occur ... and then additional beds can be opened," she said. "But one of the difficulties we experience is staffing those beds."
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