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Is Tasmania fit for purpose?

Each day in Tasmania 7,550 see a GP and 565 people are admitted to a hospital - 35 of which admissions are preventable. Sixteen people are born and 12 people die; as a population 15 per cent of us smoke, 61 per cent are overweight and 19 per cent have at least three chronic health conditions.

It’s easy for us to take for granted our access to quality healthcare. Think of the last time you stopped in at your local GP or dentist - did you pause to appreciate your access to some of the world’s best healthcare services? 

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Photo: Barrylb (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s important for individuals, government, business and industry to continually assess the condition of our healthcare system to ensure its – and our - ongoing prosperity.

" Will the ‘biggest-ever boost’ to Tasmania's health sector make a difference?" Chris Sparks.

The aforementioned statistics alone emphasise the ongoing investment required to stabilise and improve the system.

This was a sentiment shared by GPs, specialists and industry bodies attending a series of recent events where ANZ presented the findings of its ANZ - Melbourne Institute Health Sector Report.

The report found GPs account for more than 35 per cent of the nation’s $A162 billion annual health bill and that government funding reforms, demographic shifts and structural changes are transforming Australia’s general medical practice.

Boost

In May this year, Tasmania’s state budget included a significant boost to health spending, with an extra $A658 million allocated over four years for a record spend of more than $A7 billion.

Total health spending will be $A1.72 billion per annum, nearly 30 per cent of the state’s budget in 2017 and 2018. Of that $A329.4 million will be provided to the Mersey Community Hospital.

But many questions have been raised regarding whether these initiatives are enough to satisfy the growing demand for healthcare services – which are compounded by Australia’s ageing population and an increase in chronic disease - and if the allocation of these funds was ‘fit for purpose’.

Primary Health Tasmania’s November Health Intelligence Report suggests the health of Tasmanians is generally good and improving with longer life expectancy. However as a state we need to take a much-deeper look at the ever increasing and potentially preventable hospitalisations.

Throughout 2017 there have been ongoing issues with bed block, ambulance ramping, understaffing, the handling of internal emergencies and mental health service issues.

The pressure on our hospitals continues to intensify and another way to ease this may be to re-examine the role of primary healthcare and what more can be done to support GPs.

A difference

So will the ‘biggest ever boost’ to Tasmania's health sector make a difference?

The consensus among industry attendees at the recent ANZ events was yes. Tasmanians should feel buoyed by the latest developments which include 215 new nurses, 106 extra beds, 20 doctors, 115 support staff and a second rescue helicopter.

Rightly so, Tasmanians continue to want and demand more and so do those working across the industry.

While the increased investment is generally appreciated and acknowledged, efficiencies around scale, improved technology and regulations continue to evolve at a rapid rate.

Key to ensuring Tasmania’s healthcare system is fit for purpose is for business, government, medical professionals and industry to work together to identify the most critical issues and ensure access to quality healthcare.

Chris Sparks, Regional Executive Tasmania, ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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