In a year unlike any before, 2021 presented challenges and obstacles for a state with a health system that was already under pressure - long before the Coronavirus entered our shores.
Looking back on the past 12 months, Health Minister Jeremy Rockliff outlined the state of the Tasmanian healthcare sector - good and bad.
As the third minister to hold the position in as many years, the health portfolio is sometimes viewed as the poison chalice of ministerial portfolios. However, Mr Rockliff confirmed he would stay in the role until the next election - to see out his reforms.
"I like implementing reform, I don't mind implementing challenging reform, but I want to see it through," he said.
"I've given a four-year commitment."
In his first term managing the portfolio, Mr Rockliff was pragmatic about the issues facing Tasmania, but also pleased with the accomplishments of the health department to date.
He said he was most proud of the changes that had led to reduced wait times for elective surgeries, while also managing a public health emergency in COVID-19.
"I'm not going to say I've rose-coloured glasses on, I know the waiting list is still too high, but we have decreased the waiting list by 1900 since January," he said.
"We've made some good gains in terms of elective surgery waiting lists, people seen in the clinically recommended time frames and the recruitment of staff - we're moving forward," he said.
"In an increasing demand environment, recruitment wise and denting our too-high-waiting-lists, on top of the COVID preparation and our vaccination efforts, it's been an extraordinary year."
For the Island state, the Coronavirus was held at bay largely by Tasmania's geographical isolation. However, its impact on the healthcare sector had been significant, with the state's COVID preparedness, another area Mr Rockliff said had performed well.
"What has been done really well is our vaccination efforts and health preparedness," he said.
"The amount of work that's gone into vaccinations, and the meticulous effort of the people on the ground has been extraordinary.
"I'm proud of that and I'm proud of them."
Mr Rockliff said one area still in need of improvement was outpatient waiting times.
"What we need to improve is our outpatient clinics and outpatient waiting list, there are some 56,000 people on our outpatient waiting list, and it's way too many," he said.
Mr Rockliff said while the government had employed 870 staff since June last year, recruitment of health professionals would also be an ongoing focus to ensure a sustainable workforce.
"The target will be to ensure that we have sustainability in our health system and people will be able to be cared for," he said.
"Recruitment is an ongoing issue and we'll be working to continue to recruit because we'll have vacancies, people will retire, some areas of our health system have an ageing workforce, so it will be ongoing."
Forward momentum for the long-promised LGH and Calvary Healthcare co-located hospital was another positive for 2021, widely welcomed by Northern healthcare stakeholders.
Mr Rockliff said if done right the co-location would provide a significant boost to the state's healthcare sector and its ability to recruit and retain staff.
"The ideal outcome, number one, would be to support recruitment and attract recruitment because it's in the one precinct, that's very important," he said.
"There has been an enormous amount of consultation with Northern health stakeholders and clinicians and there is a huge opportunity to support our existing Tasmanian health service, support the LGH and support recruitment.
"This is a huge opportunity and we want to get it right," he said.
With borders now open to the mainland and COVID-19 entering the community, in numbers foreign to most Tasmanians, Mr Rockliff said he too had experienced some anxiety when thinking about the challenges the state would face in the coming months.
"I think it's perfectly normal and understandable, but having the benefit of visiting hospitals, looking at our preparedness, the work in the vaccination area - and I don't doubt there will be some challenges and we might not have thought of every single thing - but I believe we're as prepared as we could possibly be," he
Andrew Chounding is The Examiners Health Reporter, if you have a health-related story please email Andrew.email@example.com said.
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