Thursday 23 June 2011
Hansard of the Legislative Council
SPECIAL INTEREST MATTERS
TASMANIAN HEALTH SYSTEM
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Madam President, I cannot remember
a time when there has not been uncertainty over the Tasmanian
health system. If we think about it, there is continuous uncertainty
over annual budgets as much now as probably at any former
time. Uncertainty over budgets means uncertainty over staff
levels in our three major acute-care hospitals, no more so
than now, Madam President. It is stating the obvious to say
that this ongoing uncertainty is bad for staff morale, but
it is also detrimental to community morale, especially for
older people and those with chronic conditions. I know that
continuing budget uncertainty is also bad for the morale of
State Health ministers. I think a sainthood should go with
The chronic uncertainty over Health budgets, Madam President,
has one major cause: our community needs more health care.
We can remember a time when there was no such thing as a CAT
scan. Our grandparents can remember a time when there were
no antibiotics and surgeons were far less effective in keeping
patients alive. The demand for health services will continue
to increase and there is a health statistic that has been
doing the rounds for some years now. I think I first mentioned
it here to the former Treasurer, Michael Aird, about three
years ago and he took notice. I said that if the Tasmanian
Budget continues at its present annual increase, in little
more than a decade there will be only two cabinet ministers:
there will be the Premier and the Health minister because
there will not be anything left for other services or infrastructure.
What is to be done?
It is absolutely imperative that people take more care and
more responsibility for their health. Madam President, yesterday
in your budget reply speech you talked about the need for
people to be more responsible about their health, and that
is the case. This means lifestyle changes that many people
are reluctant to make, mainly because they have to give something
up. Tobacco has to go, alcohol has to go, the dependence on
cars has to stop and the food, which gives us so much pleasure
like that beautiful pork last night. The rice and the pork;
wasn't that magnificent? That would have to go.
The argument over lifestyle and health is not going to go
away, Madam President. However, some progress towards a healthy
community is being made. Some people's health problems are
now being managed outside hospital beds. People are managing
their health problems more themselves, especially chronic
conditions such as respiratory diseases, diabetes and renal
problems. The Launceston people with kidney problems now have
dialysis outside the Launceston General Hospital at a new
dialysis centre at Kings Meadows. Some patients with respiratory
problems can attend regular clinics where they undertake specially
Ms Forrest - Some people have home dialysis too.
Mr FINCH - Yes, that is right. Madam President, these sorts
of things only work properly if there is efficient integration
between primary health and acute care. A community health
structure needs to be able to easily transfer patients to
more appropriate places for their care, whether it is an acute-care
hospital like the LGH or a community care hospital like Beaconsfield
in my electorate of Rosevears.
I spoke earlier of the endemic uncertainty over our health
system. One uncertainty was removed last week when the State
Government finally confirmed that Tasmania would continue
with its three area health services.
Ms Forrest - That is crazy, a crazy comment.
Mr FINCH - They are vital in the integration of primary health
care; they are vital in giving communities a say in how their
area health systems are managed. The three services, especially
the Northern Area Health Service, have been running effectively
for several years. I can see the member for Murchison now
booking in a special interest debate spot to reply to this.
Ms Forrest - I would like to change mine today, I think.
Mr FINCH - It would have been a disaster to dismember them,
although that was being seriously contemplated, Madam President.
The Minister for Health, Michelle O'Byrne, announced on 15
June that the Government had reaffirmed its commitment to
establish three local hospital networks. She said:
'The Government has carefully considered all the information
that it has on the most appropriate structure for establishing
Local Hospital Networks in Tasmania ...
In light of the budget situation, we reviewed our original
That decision stands. The State Government is satisfied that
three Networks is the best model for the overall delivery
of services to the community.
We are confident that three Local Hospital Networks will build
on the early success of the three Area Health Services and
lead to improved patient experiences.'
That was the Health minister, still un-sainted, with her announcement
last week and I would like to have been a fly on the wall
in the cabinet room for those discussions, but at least our
communities have got what they need. However, it is probably
too much to hope for that there will now be certainty in Tasmania's