Wednesday 22 June 2016

Hansard of the Legislative Council

 LGH Emergency Department


(1)  What is the Minister for Health doing to try to persuade the Launceston General Hospital emergency department doctors threatening to resign, to stay on?
 (2)  If all nine of the emergency department's 11 doctors who have resigned, threatened to resign, or have reduced their working hours leave, how can the department continue to function?
 (3)  Isn't it an indictment of the state Government that this LGH crisis has been allowed to occur?


Mr President, I thank the member for Rosevears for his question.

(1) and (2)

The Chief Executive Officer of the Tasmanian Health Service, Dr David Alcorn, has made addressing issues at the Launceston General Hospital emergency department a high priority.  Allegations that nine emergency department doctors have resigned are incorrect.  There are various workforce turnover issues, including some staff reducing hours several months ago from full-time employment to working at 0.75 FTE.  They also include staff retirement, staff leaving for roles at other Tasmanian hospitals, as well as a small number of staff resignations, which I am advised are equivalent to fewer than three full-time staff.

While it would not be appropriate to comment on ongoing industrial matters and discussions with staff, the THS is committed to supporting and retaining valued staff wherever possible.  Recruitment is underway for additional senior ED doctors for the LGH.


No, the Government is working to address longstanding challenges across our health system and that is why we are implementing our Patients First reforms, which is backed by the recent $5.4 million budget allocation, including new clinical initiative nurses and evidence-based escalation plans.

The minister categorically rejects allegations in the media he has said there is no systemic issue at the LGH.  The Government clearly recognises our health system is broken and it is working, through the One Health System reforms, to change the way our health system operates so we can get better results for all Tasmanians.  The One Health System reforms include significant service upgrades at the LGH across a wide range of specialties. 

There is a strong future ahead for the LGH and this builds on significant achievements already delivered by the current state Government, including:

•           More beds - open bed numbers have increased from 347 in March 2014 to 380 in April 2016, with a further 10 beds available as flex capacity.  These beds are backed by more staff, with significant increases in the number of nurses at the LGH over the term of this Government. 

•           The LGH has opened two new elective surgery theatres this year and in the 12 months to the end of May 2016, the LGH performed more than 5300 elective surgeries.  This is over 1000 more than the previous 12-month period.  It was the highest number of surgeries since at least 2010 and quite possibly more than ever before.  This is surgery provided at the LGH campus alone.  The achievement is even greater when private sector surgeries are included.

•           There has been a fall in ambulance ramping at the LGH.  The first quarter of 2016 saw the lowest number of ramped ambulances in at least the past four years.

The Government has invested in better infrastructure, including:

•           A $5 million upgrade to the specialist clinics, which were more than 35 years old and outdated. 

•           A $4 million upgrade to the allied health clinics is currently underway, including a redeveloped Allied Health Department and special care dental unit, as well as upgrades to the nursing call system.

•           An $8 million upgrade to the 4K children's ward, which was funded in the 2016-17 Budget.  This is the first major work on the area since it was built more than 30 years ago.

The Government is committed to continuing investment at the LGH and across our health system.  We must change the way our health system operates so we can get better results for all Tasmanians.  The Minister for Health extends his sincere gratitude and thanks to the doctors, nurses and other specialists who are committed to and do provide exceptional care to Tasmanians.