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Liberal Speaker Sue Hickey’s opinion piece this week in The Mercury newspaper again highlights the enormous pressure under which the state health system and its hospitals are operating.

Dr John Davis AMA Tasmania President agrees with that sentiment and notes the issue at the Royal Hobart Hospital is particularly urgent, but other serious problems exist at all hospitals around the state, and these must be addressed now.

“Staff are working under extreme pressure continuing to deliver health care for Tasmanians. They are all doing an extraordinary job and are to be congratulated. However, we are now at the point where staff are exhausted working extra hours to the extent it is impacting their health.”

The ultimate solution to the current problems is complex, but right now there is an urgent need for the government to inject extra new money directly into our hospitals to employ staff; doctors, nurses, allied health and support staff. This money must go directly to the hospitals with their leadership charged with the responsibility to get on and employ staff. As part of this, the Department of Health must assist hospitals by reducing the unreasonable bureaucratic blockade to recruitment.

This is a real opportunity for hospital executives. Dr Davis said there needs to be an immediate, medium and long-term approach to this health system crisis. Immediately, today, more staff need to be engaged to address the shortages in the Emergency Department and on the wards across the state. We understand space is of short supply; however, staff need support. Hospital leadership must be charged and made responsible for delivering. They know best.

More staff, particularly in Emergency Departments, should go some way to reducing Ambulance ramping. Meaningful strategic health delivery planning should then commence, engaging clinicians from both acute and primary /community care across the system to plan the way forward.

Health systems across the country are stressed, and it is time we in Tasmania took the lead and a different approach to the future of health care delivery working toward a one funder model for health, to do otherwise today will perpetuate the current problems.

The AMA calls on the government to commence this process now. The next twelve months are going to be very hard indeed, and patients at all hospitals around the state will suffer if the staff and systems issues are not addressed, especially if a bad flu season hits us again next winter.

In the medium term, the next one-five years, dedicated mental health facilities both inpatient and community based must be provided. It is unacceptable that these are not already in place.

Specifically, at the Royal Hobart Hospital, we will see 300 beds transferred to the new K block next year. It is critical that the government bring forward the program to expand overall bed numbers at the hospital to align with this move. Mental Health must be moved to a more appropriate facility, the Intensive Care Unit moved to the expanded space in K block, APU and EMU moved to allow ED to grow into these spaces and better manage the ever-increasing patient load.

At the Launceston General Hospital, the unacceptable length of stay of patients, one in four staying more than 30 days must be addressed. This will provide better patient care and dramatically reduce bed block and allow access for patients in ED.

In long-term Tasmania, along with the rest of the country, will experience unprecedented demand for all health services as the baby boomers get older. The development must commit to funding the continued growth of new facilities around the state. There will also be a strong need for a more integrated approach to health care with General Practice short stay clinics to provide assessments, short stay facilities and outpatient clinics away from hospitals.

Tasmanians deserve a high-quality health system that delivers the care they need when they need it, and the staff deserve a system that supports them to provide that care.

While government surpluses are laudable right now the health of all Tasmanians is more, and therefore any surplus should be directed at health.

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