The Hodgman Government is committed to providing the best possible health care for all Tasmanians. Since 2014 we have been steadily working to improve the system with increased investments and the One Health System reforms which were widely consulted and strongly supported by all health organisations including the AMA. We don’t believe the system is as good as it should be. But the improvements that have been achieved need to be consolidated and built upon.

It is incredibly disappointing that the AMA has chosen today’s course of action, despite clear communications from me that we openly recognise and are actively addressing their concerns around patient access.

This includes making it very clear that next week’s state budget will even further address the issue of beds and staffing, particularly at the Royal Hobart Hospital. The budget will provide additional funding and staffing for the Royal. We will not be taking the AMA’s advice to close down beds in the North and the North West.

I understand that some doctors have issues with some personnel in our health system, but I want to make it very clear I have every confidence in our management team to do their job in what are difficult circumstances.

I suggest that it is most appropriate that these personnel issues should be worked through in a professional and constructive way, not personality politics via the media.

Finally, I’d like to put a few facts on the record:

*Record health funding: Our last Budget included a spend of $6.4 billion on health – more than $600 million than the last Labor-Green Budget, and we’ll continue to invest in health in our coming Budget.

*More staff: as at 30 June last year there are an extra 140 nurses compared to 2014, over 30 more doctors than in the previous year, an extra 30 allied health professionals than in the previous year and the number of paramedics increased nearly 10 per cent to over 340.

Since coming to government, we have increased the number of clinical staff in the RHH ED each year both nurses and salaried medical practitioners. In fact, clinical staff numbers declined under Labor.

RHH Emergency Department staff by Financial Year
Year Nurses Other medical staff
11/12 92.8 39.89
12/13 86.19 42.26
13/14 88.34 46.24
14/15 93.71 49.29
15/16 103.98 55.71

*More beds: We are opening 50 across the state. Once the $689 million RHH Redevelopment is complete there will be additional capacity of 250 beds.

*Reduced elective surgery waiting lists: Waiting lists are the shortest they have ever been. We have provided more than 3300 surgeries and procedures at the Mersey’s Dedicated Elective Surgery Centre since July 2016.

*Healthier elective surgery waiting list at RHH: The number of people who had waited too long for surgery at the RHH at the end of March 2017 was fewer than 800 – it peaked at almost 3000 under Labor and the Greens in 2011.

*Improvement in outpatient waiting times at RHH: The outpatient waiting list fell by more than 600 in 2016, with a reduction in the average waiting time.

*More people through RHH Emergency Department within four hours: 63 per cent of patients left the ED within four hours so far in 2016-17, compared to rates of 40 per cent and 50 per cent under the former Government. The percentage of people who left the ED before being seen is at a six year low.

*Ramping at the RHH is down: 1500 fewer hours ramped in 2016 compared to 2013 under Labor and the Greens – a reduction of more than 60 per cent.

*Ramping down at the LGH since we re-opened Ward 4D: Now at its lowest level in at least the last five financial years.

It’s also important to remember that the RHH rebuild – which we have put back on track – is all about securing an extra 250 beds for our health system.

I have offered to meet with the AMA again today, an offer that still stands.

I would urge the AMA to work with the Government to continue to improve our health system for the good of all Tasmanians, no matter where they live.

A copy of my correspondence to the AMA yesterday is included below.

I write in response to our conversations tonight about Tasmania’s health system.

In our conversations you raised a number of issues of concern to the AMA which we have previously discussed, and in a meeting with myself and the Premier on the 11th April this year, namely:

• THS leadership
• Clinical Governance Structure
• The need for additional beds at the Royal to allow improved patient flow and reduce patient inconvenience and risk
• The need to reduce beds in the North and North West which the AMA claimed was overserviced and overfunded

In our phone calls tonight I have given you broad guidance about the Government’s next important steps in addressing these issues.

Specifically, on the issue of clinical leadership and governance, a model which emphasises local management is currently being finalised in conjunction with members of your own executive.

And, on the need for more beds, I have made it very clear that this is an issue which will be further addressed in the next week’s budget.

I do however concede that we continue to strongly disagree on the AMA’s claims of over-servicing in the North and North West. We will not be reducing beds or staff in Northern hospitals because this would mean reducing access to health care in the community.

I agree with you and your members that while we are investing record amounts into health, a lot more work needs to be done to get the health system we all want. It is my very strong view that this will be best achieved by working collaboratively on solutions in a positive and constructive way.

Stuart, as I have indicated I am more than willing to make the time to personally sit down with you and your executive team at any time to once again discuss your various concerns, to give you detail on our plans which you agree you do not currently have, and to continue to find a way forward.

I look forward to your response, as always please feel free to ring me at any time.

Yours sincerely
Michael Ferguson

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