Mrs ARMITAGE ( Launceston - Motion) - Madam President, I move -
That the Legislative Council calls on the State and Commonwealth governments to support the community's call for a summit of State and Federal politicians to seek a solution to the Tasmanian health budget issues.
On 19 October 2011 a group of senior clinicians, both public and private, business leaders and representatives of community and professional organisations came together to discuss this current health crisis described by many as the worst the Launceston General Hospital had ever seen. It became apparent to those attending that the focus of discussions needed to be much broader than issues relating to the LGH and were of a statewide nature.
The complexities of the issues affecting health in Tasmania were far beyond the capabilities of this State Government to find an appropriate and long-term solution. The situation in the Tasmanian health system is dire and requires urgent attention and action. We are losing and cutting vital services and our hospitals are closing beds at an alarming rate. There is no doubt that this Labor-Greens alliance is out of its depth and has neither the capacity nor the ability to manage our ailing health system. Given its size, Tasmania is ideally suited to be a test case for the nation for Federal Government control and this fits well with the three Tasmanian health organisations that can only be improved with a single funder.
It is a fundamental right for the people of Tasmania to have adequate health care provided by their State. This is one of the reasons the State pays taxes. The slash-and-burn mentality of the current health bureaucracy, in failing to take into account the Federal Government's productivity targets, have put at risk millions of bonus dollars under the National Health Reform Agreement. This clearly shows they have totally lost the plot.
The level of cuts across the board has the potential to seriously impact on the delivery of adequate health services to our community. The short-term financial savings will cause long-term health ramifications for patients. Long waits for elective surgery and treatment often result in patients presenting at the hospital as emergencies. The outcome can be a longer inpatient stay for recovery or a higher morbidity rate. Where are the savings? It seems to me this is a false economy that over time will impact negatively on the health and wellbeing of all our community.
It was therefore resolved by our group to call for a summit of our national and State leaders - both government and business - to come together to formulate a solution to this current crisis gripping the Tasmanian health system. We need those people around a table that are able to make a decision, without any political bias, to work together for the good of our community. Tasmania is a part of Australia and I believe it is incumbent on the Federal Government to ensure adequate health care for all Tasmanians.
Many people have offered to assist with this summit including former LGAT President Lynn Mason who has offered to make herself available to chair such a group. As a courtesy and a starting point we, as a group, wrote to the Prime Minister, the Honourable Julia Gillard MP, on Friday 21 October requesting available dates for her attendance at the summit. We reiterated that the health system in Tasmania is currently experiencing a crisis and urgent action is needed to avert further degradation of services in this State.
Upon receipt of a response from the Prime Minister it was our intention to write to State and Federal leaders, both government and business, providing suggested dates and inviting broader participation. Unfortunately the Prime Minister's office advised she was unable to attend the summit due to her full schedule for the remainder of 2011 and indicated in the response that our letter was forwarded to Nicola Roxon for consideration. A similar response was received from Minister Roxon indicating a full schedule for 2011.
Sadly, our State Government is downplaying the seriousness of the situation, consistently refuting that it is a crisis, and appears to have neither the capacity nor the ability to resolve the problems that are clearly of their own making. I appreciate there is currently the Legislative Council Government Administration Committee A subcommittee inquiry, which is to inquire into and report upon the cost-reduction strategies identified by the Department of Health and Human Services under their list of saving strategies, a document of 4 October 2011, with particular reference to those strategies that may impact upon the delivery of acute and other front-line health services within the three area health services of the department into the future, however the fact is if this State Government continues to implement the proposed cuts, it will diminish our hospitals to a level from which they will find it very difficult to recover.
Our hospitals are renowned Australia-wide as teaching hospitals and currently accreditation is at risk. Any loss of Tasmanian accreditation could impact negatively in hospital systems across the country.
I would therefore respectfully seek this House's support for my call for the State and Commonwealth governments to support the community's call for a summit of State and Federal politicians to seek a solution to the Tasmanian health budget issues and current health crisis.
Mrs ARMITAGE ( Launceston ) - Mr Deputy President, I am not going to go into a lot more detail. I thank those who have supported the call for a summit. I would say that the only thing to be lost by not doing it is that if we ask for nothing we will get nothing. At the end of the day there is no saying that we will not get an outcome and hopefully, as mentioned earlier, one of the outcomes that we would be after would be Federal intervention. We are obviously very well set up with the size of our State to be a test case for the rest of Australia. It was mentioned that many States are in a similar situation to that we are now in or will be coming to that situation in the next couple of years. I would have thought that would be an obvious case for the Federal Government to look at us as a test case because New South Wales and others will be following our lead in the not too distant future.
As was mentioned by the honourable member for Huon, the group that I referred to in my first speech was to do with senior clinicians, local government, Rotary, ANF, AMA, health insurance representatives, community representatives and business leaders. It was a large group from the northern area that was convened to initially look at the Launceston General Hospital but when we sat down and met we realised that the issues were much larger than just in the north and the Launceston General Hospital. We felt it was a statewide issue and that this was the place it needed to be addressed. If the Legislative Council does not support us, that is up to the Legislative Council.
Mr Dean - Through the Chair - just to make it clear, when you are calling on the summit of State and Federal politicians, are you calling for a summit of Tasmanian politicians only and Federal politicians or is it all State politicians?
Mrs ARMITAGE - If I perhaps amend the motion slightly for members here, 'That the Legislative Council supports the community's call for a summit of Tasmanian State and Federal politicians' - which are Tasmanian Federal politicians. Obviously we want the minister and the Prime Minister, but we would like the elected representatives -
Mr DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order. Advice from the Deputy Clerk is that the honourable member may clarify what her intent is but she cannot amend it.
Mrs ARMITAGE - Thank you. Is that all right for the honourable member for Windermere?
Mr Dean - It is State only, Tasmanian State?
Mrs ARMITAGE - Yes. As mentioned, I see no real issue with having a summit. The only thing we can get are some positive gains, as was mentioned by the member for Pembroke. What is to be lost with having a summit? Hopefully we will have a lot to gain. When the group met in the north we looked at what we would do to improve the situation, this crisis. It is a real crisis but the State Government is saying it is not a crisis, and I think that is part of the problem. When we met we discussed having a rally, the largest rally the State has ever seen, to show what will happen, but we decided no. We have had rallies before. We need an outcome, we need people sitting around a table who can make decisions, State and Federal politicians together with some clinicians and business leaders, who can say what the problems are and discuss the issues. Not something from a distance, not the Federal Minister for Health making snide remarks to the State minister and back and forth saying the State has not done this or that. We want these people sitting around a table together, working together for the people of Tasmania, not just for the people of the north, north-west or the south but for the people of Tasmania because we realise it is a statewide issue.
If the Legislative Council sees fit not to support this motion, so be it. If you look at the wording it is not saying 'must', we are saying that the Legislative Council supports the call for a summit. We have respectfully asked the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health to come together with other members to try to find a solution to the crisis. I could go on and go into depth but I think it is a very simple request that we get people together to try to find a solution. I would ask members to support the motion.
The Council divided -
Mr Harriss (Teller)
Mr Mulder (Teller)
Mr DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order. On reading the Standing Orders, if the numbers in a division are equal, the President, who otherwise does not vote must give the casting vote. When the numbers are equal I am required to vote in the negative.
Mr Deputy President having giving his casting vote with the 'Noes', motion so negatived.