The Launceston General Hospital has always had a rich heritage with strong community pride and support. As Australia's third oldest hospital, it has a proud history of clinical innovation and leadership that has made it stand out as a leading regional health service that offers a comprehensive range of services.
But since it was built as a 102-bed hospital facility in 1863, the health needs of the community have changed.
Our population is ageing, we are living with more chronic conditions and while our dedicated healthcare workforce continues to do an excellent job, there has been an increase in utilisation, which has placed strain on our people and the system.
Our challenge now is how can we protect our health workers and build an enhanced integrated health campus that ensures our community continues to flourish.
This is why a co-located hospital alongside the LGH is so important to Launceston and the greater Northern Tasmanian community.
The idea of a co-located hospital is not new to the region or the public health sector. When I was working at the LGH as the former chief executive, we considered the potential for co-location and a report was commissioned from Banscott.
It found there were many advantages to its development. After this report was finalised, the world was hit with the global financial crisis and the next couple of years were focussed on finishing the rebuild and dealing with significant budget challenges, all while maintaining a busy acute hospital.
The merit of this report and a co-location was not forgotten with several leading doctors, who worked in both the private and public sectors, keeping the issue alive before Calvary lodged an unsolicited proposal three years ago. I believe we should strive to optimise this opportunity and create synergies within our health system that benefits in working together.
While it may not be obvious, there is an interdependence between the public and private health sectors. If this was lost, the outcomes would be adverse. A co-located hospital enables patients and their families at the centre of health service delivery. But before the first sod is turned or the concrete is poured, it is important that we get service planning right.
It is imperative that there is consultation with the community to build a sustainable health service for the future by connecting and rebalancing care across the acute, sub-acute, rehabilitation, mental health and primary health sectors right through to care in our community. For an accredited health service like the LGH, it is an important requirement that stakeholders engage and codesign services with the community, and specifically address closing the gap while establishing Aboriginal Health plans.
This is a rare opportunity for to engage with the community and share health services for the future. Through this we can identify what additional services can be attracted to the region and what existing services can be enhanced.
We can improve our teaching and training capabilities at both the undergraduate and specialist levels, improving the region's ability to "grow our own" health workforce. This can be further optimised alongside the university and health training providers, as well as through organisations like the Clifford Craig Foundation where local research contributes to those who live in the North.
In turn, it will ensure that Launceston attracts and retains the best staff for a regional centre and enable sharing services between both hospitals, creating sustainable services and cost savings.
The economic benefits are paramount, with health one of the largest employers in the region, accounting for 16 per cent of employment and growing. We must not rest on our past laurels when it comes to the health of Northern Tasmanians - we need new innovative workforce models and a co-location provides that.
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