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Reduction in Surgical Services


Would the Leader please advise -

(1) Despite the Government's claims of record funding growth resulting in 'the second highest rate of any state in Australia', why has there been a reduction of 17 per cent in surgical services in Tasmania during 2019?

(2) As a corollary of the first question, the reduction in surgical services has caused a commensurate rise in waiting lists. What is the Government's plan to address the elective surgery waiting list, when it is clear that allocating greater portions of the state budget does not seem to be addressing the problem?

(3) The Launceston General Hospital has lost training accreditation in medicine and emergency medicine in recent years. With the reduction of surgical activity and only complex cases being performed, as opposed to the more typical cases from which trainees can best learn, there is concern over ongoing training accreditation in the very near future. What is the Government's plan to ensure no additional training is lost in Tasmania?

(4) What specific plans does the Government have in place to leverage opportunities being presented to the health sector in northern Tasmania, given the significant health and training projects that are underway, such as the University of Tasmania redevelopment and the hospital co-location project?

(5) What are the Government's plans to attract and retain talented and able health professionals to Tasmania in the years ahead?


Mr President, I thank the member for Launceston for her question. This answer is lengthy in nature and probably would have been best put on the Notice Paper. I have some answers; I hope that you are satisfied with them.

Ms Armitage - Thank you. With respect, I did want an answer sometime this year. That was the reason I did not put it on the Notice Paper.

Mrs HISCUTT - They are very intricate.

Ms Armitage - I appreciate that, but questions do stay for some time on the Notice Paper on occasion.

Mrs HISCUTT - The answers are as follows -

(1) and (2)

We are delivering a record $8.1 billion over four years, which is $2.3 billion more than when we came to Government. Each year, the department and the Tasmanian Health Service plan the level and type of activity for the Tasmanian health system, including the type and volume of elective surgeries, emergency department presentations and admissions to hospital for complex medical care based, on demand and available funding.

Investment for Health has increased to 32 per cent of our budget and we know there is increasing demand across the health system that needs to be met, including increased demand for admission and emergency departments and need for colonoscopies and other diagnostic procedures. We acknowledge these competing funding priorities must be balanced and we will continue to roll out our $757 million plan for Health, which includes almost 300 additional hospital beds, with more staff and more funding, which will boost the level of surgery we can provide over coming years.

(3) The Government values the important role that medical trainees provide in our health system. Trainees provide valuable services to patients and they are training to be the specialty workforce of the future. We also know that investing in training locally means that the Tasmanian community is more likely to be able to recruit the medical specialty workforce. The Government will continue to work through the Department of Health and the Tasmanian Health Service on issues of accreditation to ensure we have the balance right between providing services and training and educating of the workforce of the future.

Ms Armitage - Sorry, with respect, you have not answered any of my questions.

Mrs HISCUTT - With respect, I did say it would take quite a while to get these figures together and they should have been on the Notice Paper. Would you like me to continue?

Ms Armitage - You can continue, and I may put these questions on the Notice Paper because these are general rather than specific answers.

Mrs HISCUTT - You are welcome. That is right, because it takes a lot of time to find the answers to the questions you asked -

Ms Armitage - Not if you knew what you were doing with Health -

Mrs HISCUTT - Would you like me to continue or did you want to put your question on the Notice Paper?

Ms Armitage - No, no, keep going.

Mrs HISCUTT - To continue -

(4) The developing health precinct in northern Tasmania provides an opportunity to work more closely with the university and the private sector to build our training capacity in the north. We know that attracting and retaining medical practitioners to live and work in regional centres can be difficult and that providing high-quality education and training opportunities is a key factor in improving this. Providing employment opportunities that allow medical practitioners to work across the public sector, the private sector and with the educational institutions can often be a drawcard and assist in the recruiting of specialty positions.

(5) The Government has established a health workforce planning unit, which is looking at how best to attract and retain the health professionals Tasmania needs and to continue to provide high-class health services to the community. Our objective is that the Tasmanian Health Service will be developed into a workplace of choice. To do that, we need to recognise the importance of Health leaders in driving a culture supportive of high-quality, safe, person-centred service delivery.

In addition, promoting and supporting the health and wellbeing of the Health workforce will be a priority.

The Department of Health, the Tasmanian Health Service and the clinicians meet regularly with University of Tasmania College of Health and Medicine staff to discuss ways to improve our medical school program. Similarly, there is an ongoing close dialogue with the medical colleges in relation to our training programs in Tasmania.

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