launch 3The release today of the final health White Paper marks a significant turning point for health in Tasmania. The White Paper is the culmination of the most open and transparent conversation a Government has ever had with the Tasmanian people about the extent to which our health system is broken.

The Hodgman Liberal Government will not sit by and allow Tasmanians to continue to suffer some of the worst health outcomes in Australia. Through the six-month consultation process, we have heard from thousands of Tasmanians from all parts of our state.

Their message is clear: we must reject the idea of keeping the status quo – a health system which is regionally divided, inefficient and, despite the best efforts of our skilled medical professionals, cannot deliver better treatment for Tasmanians.

The premise of health reform outlined in the Exposure Draft released earlier this year remains. Each of our major hospitals should have a specialised role delivering the services for all Tasmanians that they are each best equipped to safely provide.

This means consolidation of some complex surgeries, critical care and birthing to the hospitals which have the required range of specialist expertise and facilities to deliver them safely, and respond immediately to any deterioration in a patient’s condition.

However, there are some key changes in the final White Paper from the Exposure Draft, including:

• Confirmation that the Mersey will retain a 24-hour Emergency Department. No further consideration is being given to the future option in the Exposure Draft of reducing overnight opening hours.

• The dedicated Elective Surgery Centre at the Mersey will be substantially expanded from the day surgery centre proposed in the Exposure Draft to a centre which offers a much wider range of elective procedures, including those which require up to one night’s stay in the hospital for recovery.

• The location for birthing services on the North West will be Burnie. This will ensure a full team of specialists can deliver this service for mothers and babies born on the North West, something which could not be assured if services continue to be divided between Burnie and Latrobe.

Aside from birthing, all maternity services including antenatal and post-natal care will continue to be delivered from both the Mersey and Burnie for mothers right across the North West. This decision has been made on the basis that consolidating birthing services to one site is necessary to sustainably attract and retain midwives, obstetricians and support staff such as anaesthetists and paediatricians. Burnie was selected as the single site because it provides access to Intensive Care Services and other necessary support services. Access to the service for people from Circular Head and the West Coast was also a highly relevant factor.

Importantly, birthing services at the Mersey will continue for the next twelve months to ensure that no women who are currently pregnant will be affected by this decision.

As part of this change, the Government will invest in additional transport and accommodation support including for mothers and their families travelling for maternity services.

The Liberal Government’s $24 million investment in patient transport is also detailed in a companion document to the White Paper. This investment, which addresses some long-standing service gaps in patient transport and assists Tasmanians to access the services they need, will see:

• $5.4 million for 12 additional paramedics based in Devonport and Latrobe from July 2016.
• $1.4 million for Extended Care Paramedics to treat people in their homes where possible and reduce the demand on the ED at the LGH.
• $5.9 million for enhancing the aeromedical retrieval service, including the construction of helipads at the NWRH and MCH.
• $0.9 million for non-emergency patient transport, including extending out of hours transport.
• $8.2 million for affordable accommodation for patients and families that must travel for health care. The funds will help establish new accommodation options and/or upgrade existing accommodation services and to reduce the need for patients to travel for services. Additional funding will be provided to upgrade clinical areas to support the use of telehealth.
• The Government will work with existing transport service providers, as part of an upcoming review of bus contracts in the region, to establish a low-cost bus service for patients and families between the Launceston General Hospital, the Mersey Community Hospital and the North West Regional Hospital and to upgrade transfer facilities in hospitals ($2.2 million).

These changes show that the Government has genuinely consulted and listened to the community and has been guided by health experts since the release of the Green Paper.

The White Paper also addresses the important role that preventative health needs to play in improving health outcomes. This will be guided by the comprehensive five-year preventative health strategy currently being formulated by the Healthy Tasmania Committee, part of the Health Council of Tasmania.

The Government is also committed to enhancing the role of primary care, and our rural and regional health centres and hospitals. All of these facilities will form part of a single statewide health system, and there will be a greater emphasis on coordinating and strengthening the links between major hospitals and other providers of health care around the state.

It is important to understand that the changes to services outlined in the White Paper should not and will not be rushed. There are a number of changes which can begin to be implemented immediately, such as increased elective surgery at the Mersey, implementation of the Northern Integrated Cancer Service and the Northern Integrated Surgical Service, increased outreach services from the LGH, improved coordination of statewide trauma services, and improvements in the use of telehealth.

However, no changes will be made until the appropriate staffing, support and resources are in place. This means that the Tasmanian Health Service will progressively roll out changes in a way which delivers outcomes and minimises disruption to patients and staff.

The order of priorities will be determined from a patient care and patient safety perspective. The THS will develop a full implementation plan by October this year.

I would like to thank our dedicated health professionals for their patience and support as we work with them to fix the broken system. I would also like to acknowledge and thank everyone who has contributed to the frank and honest conversation around health over the past year, which has enabled us to identify the problems and the solutions which we will now put into place.

The white paper can be found online at

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