Tuesday 4 September 2007
LAUNCESTON GENERAL HOSPITAL FUNDING
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, as you have heard from the member for Windermere, Saturday's rally in support of the Launceston General Hospital was attended by 5 000 people. It was interesting because it was at an awkward time of day - one o'clock on a Saturday afternoon - and it was freezing cold, but it demonstrated just how important the hospital is to the northern community.
It may be only one of many hospitals around Australia that is suffering funding problems, but it is our hospital and the people are right to be concerned. The problems of the Launceston General Hospital are symptomatic of problems throughout Australia's health services. Partly because of an aged and ageing population, there is an ever-increasing demand for acute health care services, and as the science of medicine develops dramatically it becomes more and more expensive to provide.
Mr President, Tasmania's health budget is increasing every year at an alarming rate, and as I told the gathering on Saturday, if the present rate of increase continues, by 2019 Tasmania will only have the budget for two cabinet members, the Premier and the Minister for Health and Human Services, so, clearly, something has to be done about health expenditure in the long term. Those concerned 5 000 people, at least, who attended the Launceston General Hospital rally need reassurance in the short term. They must regain the confidence that the Launceston General Hospital can continue to provide its high level of specialist services. They must be confident that it can continue its important teaching and research roles, but above all, Mr President, members of our community must be confident that when they become ill, the Launceston General Hospital is there waiting to care for them with a full staff and full resources.
The member for Windermere, in his wrap-up, touched on the WP Holman Clinic. There is no more telling community concern than the recent concerns expressed over the future of the WP Holman Clinic services. For decades the clinic has supported and treated people with one of the most traumatic medical conditions of all, which is cancer. It was interesting to hear the member mention that it has been going 50 years. I know that in the community people are traumatised enough when they have that dreaded announcement that they are dealing with cancer, but then in the future, if we do not maintain the services there, to then have to travel - perhaps it is to Hobart - compounds the issue, when you really need the support of your family close by and your friends.
Also, the reputation of the WP Holman Clinic has really been burned into the psyche of our community, because it has done such a good job over the years in dealing with people. The staff are of the highest order, so it is set at a very high standard in our people's minds in our community. To be in fear of losing that service or having it downgraded is affecting our community greatly. If the WP Holman Clinic is not a government funding priority, I do not know what is.
Federal funding to the States, including health funding, was close to 7 per cent of gross national product in the mid-1970s; this year it is down to about 5 per cent of GDP. The States say that health funding has also specifically declined. Of course, the Federal Government disagrees, so it is to-ing and fro-ing on this debate, but whatever the real figures, it is clear that the Launceston General Hospital is not receiving sufficient funding, and that has been outlined by the member for Windermere, so there is no need for me to go over that.
I would just like to anecdotally tell a story, though, and this may amplify some of the concerns that the member mentioned about nurses. I know somebody who started a nursing career this year in the hospital system after having completed her studies. She is very fit, healthy and enthusiastic, yet last week she left the system simply because she feels overworked and that there are too many sick people coming in there and not enough people to care for them.
Ms Forrest - It's called burnout.
Mr FINCH - It is called burnout. She is fit, I tell you, and she is young and enthusiastic, and now she has gone to another job in the private sector.
Ms Forrest - As a nurse?
Mr FINCH - As a community nurse, where she gets more money. She gets a car allowance, a phone and a computer. She works Monday to Friday, nine until three, and on better money. I am comparing the private to the public system and obviously they can poach and offer more; however, it is just one example. The point is that she is still in a learning phase, enthusiastic and would love to be in the system, but is fearful of the way the system is going.
Perhaps the State Government has its budget priorities wrong, perhaps it is spending money where it is not needed as much as in the health sector. But governments always seem to be able to find funds when they want to - Federal and State - so we are asking the State Government to sort it out and give the LGH what it needs. This is the message that is coming through from the community. Five thousand people do not turn out on a cold Saturday afternoon and wait to let the minister know how passionately they feel about the LGH for no reason. Our community needs to regain confidence that the LGH services will be provided for in a funding sense. It is our most important institution in northern Tasmania and we need that confidence restored.