Independent Member for Clark, Andrew Wilkie, addressed the Federal Parliament to discuss the issue of Tasmania’s broken health system.
“How long do Tasmanians have to put up with a health system that is consistently failing to deliver on so many different fronts?
“Barely a day goes by without constituents relating health horror stories, such as that of a 90-year-old man who spent three and a half hours waiting in agony on the floor for an ambulance to arrive to triage his broken leg and transport him to hospital. His pain and distress grew exponentially as time wore on, with a few Panamax the only relief available until paramedics arrived.
“Then there’s the parents of a three-year-old boy with autism who had to move interstate at a moment’s notice to access the care he needs because it’s just not available in Tasmania. They couldn’t afford to wait up to 18 months to see an allied health professional as early intervention is crucial. “The entire industry is in crisis mode,” says the child’s mother, who was not only forced to leave behind a senior job in the healthcare sector but also the family’s entire support network.
“And what advice do you suggest we give to the growing number of constituents whose GP has retired and they can’t find another local practice to take them on, let alone one that bulk bills? As a result, many delay seeing a doctor until their condition worsens and lands them in the already overloaded emergency departments.
“Meanwhile, those healthcare workers at the coalface have struggled through difficult conditions for so long that their goodwill is exhausted. Facing inevitable burn-out, they too are forced to move to another state where both the conditions and the pay are so much better.
“While the rollout of Medicare Urgent Care Clinics and reforms to the GP sector are clearly welcome, they are just one part of the puzzle. And with so many GPs already leaving the sector and graduates choosing other specialties well ahead of general practice, just who is going to staff these urgent care clinics?
“What we have here is a system that clearly needs rebuilding from the ground up. Without serious reforms in the primary healthcare system, including a long-overdue increase in the Medicare rebate, the situation is only going to get worse.
“Until the Medicare rebate rises, making healthcare affordable for patients and ensuring GPs achieve pay parity with colleagues working in hospitals, the GP workforce will continue to contract, sick people will continue to wait longer for treatment and the acute-care system will continue to bear the burden.
“The time has come to implement serious, systemic change, with a particular focus on expanding allied health roles in the community to ease the pressure on both primary and acute care sectors. Until we do this, these horror stories are set to continue.”