Adjournment - Tasmanian Health Crisis - 13 Nov 2018

I rise this evening to speak about the catastrophic state of the health system in my home state of Tasmania under the incompetent Hodgman Liberal government. 

Long gone are the rose-tinted days when my grandmother would pick the best flowers from her garden and walk them into the doctor's office. 'These are for you, to say thank you for taking care of my family,' she would say. How times have changed! Stories like this, of close relationships between families and those who care for us, have been filed away in the archives. This is really sad, because there are so many extremely passionate people working in health care who are doing their absolute best and, quite frankly, holding together a system that is in crisis.

Tasmania has the oldest population and the highest rate of chronic illness in the country. Add our escalating hospital crisis, the specialist and general practitioner shortage and an incompetent Liberal government asleep at the wheel to the mix, and there is absolutely no doubt the system is at breaking point. Under the Hodgman Liberal government, our health system has spiralled downwards, with their record of inaction, withholding information, funding cuts and severely underfunding the health and hospital system only adding fuel to the fire. More than three damning reports highlighting the appalling state of our health system have now landed with a deafening thud on the Tasmanian health minister's desk. But, in true Liberal style, Minister Ferguson has pointed the finger and looked the other way.

Our nurses, doctors and other health professionals are at breaking point. They didn't sign up for this. They tell me they desperately want to provide the highest quality of care, which patients expect and deserve, but they can't because the system is broken and the minister isn't listening. The fact is that hospital staff are working seven days a week and routinely arriving for eight-hour shifts that turn into 12-hour shifts. It's hurting our nurses, and it's hurting Tasmanians that rely on the health and hospital system. But the Hodgman government refuses to act.

To paint a picture, one Royal Hobart Hospital nurse said: 'When you go to work and we are already at level 4, you know that you will literally be running from start to finish. One shift I worked, we discharged 20 patients and accepted another 20 new ones from the emergency department within the space of eight hours. There was no patient-centred care for those patients on that shift. They just become names on a page, because that's all you have time for.'

Another registered nurse said: 'It's just not good enough. We didn't become nurses to provide this level of care. We desperately want to be able to provide the high quality of care that our patients expect and deserve, but we can't because of the constant bed lock. The lack of inpatient beds means this unacceptable level of care is the new norm.'

Yet the minister refuses to do anything. Every week new horror stories are emerging. We have paramedics trying to treat sick people in corridors and nurses performing invasive procedures on patients who are sitting shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers in the emergency department. Tasmanians drive past our hospitals every day and see ambulances queued on the hospital ramp and out onto the street. Our bed lock is so bad that more than 80 Tasmanians have lost their lives because they can't get the care that they need.

Every single Tasmanian has a right to access quality health care when they need it most. This includes palliative and end-of-life care. I note the Hodgman government's failure to deliver the standalone hospice in Launceston that is so desperately needed. The minister, when he was in opposition, gave a commitment to look seriously at the standalone hospice in Launceston, and since coming to government he has failed to act on that commitment. The government is now in its fifth year in office, and no excuse is accepted any longer.

I commend the campaign by the ANMF Tasmania branch and their tireless effort to bring a human face to the crisis. Their slogan, 'Bring your own bed,' is no laughing matter. The Morrison government isn't immune from criticism either. Let's not forget that, as Treasurer, Scott Morrison cut $715 million out of Australian public hospitals. I will not accept this deplorable level of treatment and care becoming the norm in the state that I love, and neither should the Liberal Hodgman and Morrison governments.