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Reduction in Surgical Services


Mrs Hiscutt (by leave) tabled and incorporated the answer to question upon notice No. 28.


Ms ARMITAGE asked a question of the Leader of the Government in the Council -

  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. Launceston General Hospital - LGH - 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?


The incorporated answer read as follows -

(1) and (2)

The health and wellbeing of Tasmanians continues to be our number one priority as we face the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We acknowledge there has been growing demand across our health system for some time, including elective surgery. This is borne out in the number of people added to the waiting list during the last financial year, which is up more than 3000 people when compared with just five years ago.

This is exactly why the Government fought so hard to have the federal government bring forward funding for more elective surgery and more endoscopies. This $20 million of funding, agreed to in December, will help thousands of Tasmanians to get elective surgeries and endoscopies, and help patients who have been waiting the longest receive treatment more quickly.

This funding continues to build on our investments over the past five years, with more than $100 million of additional state-based funding - as well as significant Commonwealth funding - which has delivered improvements to waiting times.

Unfortunately, due to the impacts of COVID-19, we are not yet in the position to return to normal elective surgery levels. There will be a gradual, progressive restart to our surgical program, and we are now working through our surgery plans and capacity with local hospital management and senior clinicians, as well as the private sector.

(3) The Government values the important role that medical trainees provide in our health system. Trainees not only provide valuable services to patients, they are also 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 that we get the balance right between providing services, training and educating the workforce of the future.

(4) Although this project has been delayed due to COVID-19, the Launceston General Hospital Masterplan and associated clinical services planning are key parts of our broader commitment to growing health services in the north and planning for our future.

This work will set out a clear path for the future of health facilities in the LGH precinct and inform the delivery of future health services. Public submissions for the LGH Masterplan have been received, with further work and a community forum planned for the period following the COVID-19 response.

More broadly, 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 and the private sector and with educational institutions can often be a drawcard and assist in recruiting to specialty positions.

(5) This Government has established the Health Workforce Planning Unit which is looking at how best we attract and retain the health professionals Tasmania needs to continue to provide high-class health services to the community.

The Department of Health, Tasmanian Health Service and clinicians meet regularly with the University of Tasmania College of Health and Medicine staff to discuss ways to improve our medical school program.

Similarly, there is ongoing close dialogue with the medical colleges in relation to our training programs in Tasmania.

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