What's it going to take to fix a broken health system? It's a question Tasmanians have been asking for years, decades even.
Now in the midst of a global pandemic, the immediate challenges are even greater. But that doesn't mean we should lose sight of the bigger picture.
This week's federal budget was unsurprisingly one based on COVID-19 recovery. This meant health received a large slice of the pie. But despite billions being set aside for the continued response to coronavirus, sadly, planning for long-term solutions to fix an already overstretched health system were largely overlooked.
For too long worthwhile and effective investments in preventative health measures have been largely set aside by governments - both state and federal. Why? Because the long-term results sit well outside the political/election cycle.
For a government to really invest in measures aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of a population - the results of which might not be seen or felt for decades - it takes commitment and it takes courage.
With another federal budget now handed down, preventative health measures were again swept under the rug. And while the need for immediate measures to assist frontline staff in their response to COVID-19 is undeniable, if a pandemic doesn't result in a call to arms to invest in prevention and strengthen a health system against future points of crisis, then what will?
On a state level, the approach continues to be largely dominated by how we treat people who are unwell. Rather than what we are doing to enable a system that keeps people well, for longer. This applies to both physical and mental health.
On Thursday Health Minister Sarah Courtney released a feasibility report into establishing urgent care centres in Launceston and Hobart. The report was commissioned in 2018, completed in January 2019 and handed down in October 2020, with no explanation given for the almost two-year delay.
But politics aside, the report offers a promising indication the government is seriously considering future infrastructure investments to help relieve pressures on our hospital emergency departments.
Still, it could be years for the proposals to see the light of day and become operational - not to mention the $100 million in needed funding. But as pointed out by the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine, UCCs on their own will not solve issues of overcrowding and access blocked EDs.
For that, we need to address deep-rooted systemic and resourcing issues. We are talking about longstanding issues in our health system that need long-term solutions. Investments that are going to keep Tasmanians out of hospital all together, and well for longer.
What do you think? Send us a letter to the editor: