05 June 2013
Andrew lashes the State Government for ongoing delays on the Royal Hobart Hospital redevelopment.
I rise to express my great disappointment with the ongoing delays plaguing the Royal Hobart Hospital redevelopment. The state government has made deep cuts to Tasmania’s struggling public health system, with often dire consequences. Front-line staff have been fired, wards shut have been down and waiting lists remain shockingly long. That is why the $340 million towards the rebuild I negotiated after the 2010 federal election and the $325 million cash injection I secured for the health system more broadly are so crucial. Without these funds, Tasmania’s public health system would indeed be in complete crisis. That is why the continuing delay in the hospital redevelopment is so hard to stomach. Yes, the hospital redevelopment is a big and complicated project, and, yes, it will take time to put it together properly and some delay is understandable. But the extent of the delay—18 months according to the original proposal to the Health and Hospitals Fund—is proof that state government is not doing everything in its power to get this job done as quickly as possible.
A crucial dimension of the hospital redevelopment is the jobs that it will generate. This is one of the most significant infrastructure projects in Tasmania’s history and it will provide a significant stimulus to the local economy, especially in the construction sector, which is winding up other projects and is desperate to move workers to new work. It is not just the construction sector in for stimulus, because the hospital redevelopment and cash injection for Tasmanian health will employ many clinicians and health researchers, a boost all the more important considering the federal government’s tertiary education cuts will cost 150 jobs at the University of Tasmania.
I simply cannot fathom the news this week that the Tasmanian government’s latest budget shows that $114 million earmarked for the hospital redevelopment this year will not be spent, when the project is of such importance and when so much time has already passed since funding became available. In fact, the state government received the first $100 million for the redevelopment just after the 2010 federal election and another payment of $170 million not all that long afterwards. The Tasmanian Minister for Health says that delivering the best result, and in particular consulting with clinicians, has caused the delay. But the truth is that just about everything the Tasmanian state government touches moves at a glacial pace. The state government must get the job done and done quickly.