2020/21 Tasmania Budget

12 Nov 2020



AMA Tasmania general response to budget:

  • AMA Tasmania supports responsible levels of debt during these unusual times to ensure that the crises in our emergency departments, the blowouts on elective surgery lists, and the need for more mental health services can be addressed.
  • Government needs a clear plan to gradually come of our debt so that future health budgets do not bear the brunt of a budget/debt crisis.

AMA Tasmania specific response to health budget:

  • We welcome the additional spending in health. We feared we might have lost some of the money provided in February to make health budgets more sustainable, but this is not the case. The Government now needs to build sustainable long-term funding into elective surgery, rather than this one-off, turn the tap on and off approach we see once again in this budget.
  • We welcome the ongoing commitment to improving the capital infrastructure of our hospitals across the State.
  • ED (emergency departments) ramping and Bed Block remain critical issues for our major hospitals – more beds are required sooner rather than later. We urge the Government to open their new beds as quickly as possible at the Royal Hobart Hospital and the Launceston General Hospital.

Welcome new investment in:

  • $21m ICT (Information and Communications Technology) – but need to invest in an EMR (Electronic Medical Record) right now that will help to build the connectivity between acute care and primary care providers and patients. This investment should be being delivered in parallel with that being invested in modernising HR payroll, rosters etc.
  • $45.5 Elective Surgery – this money is much needed but is unlikely to make a dent in the long waiting lists. It will help to ensure the Government delivers it’s expected levels of around 19,000 procedures.
  • $4m CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) – this is only the first stage in the funding required to improve CAMHS services in line with the Government's much-needed reform agenda. More will be required. Also, need capital works investment. Buildings such as Clare House are not adequate to support appropriate clinical care for children.
  • $4.1m Mental Health Reform – great to see funding but concerned that it does not go far enough. Mental Health services have always been the poor cousin and still needs more funding to help address the growing mental health care needs of the community. We need more psychiatrists in delivering community care and more acute mental health beds.  
  • $4.9m Alcohol and Drugs Service (ADS) - is welcome and must go to support public sector services which are woefully underfunded and badly in need of extra resources to provide services across the State, including appropriate in-patient beds.

AMA Tasmania has valued the approach taken by the Government in guiding our State and the health system through COVID-19. It has been critical for our clinicians to know that access to funds was not going to be an issue when dealing with this insidious virus. AMA Tasmania President Dr Helen McArdle remarked, "2020 more than any other year has shone a light on the importance of having a unified, fully funded health care system. 

Earlier this year AMA Tasmania welcomed the Government's announcement of additional funding to the Tasmanian Health Service of $118m in the previous financial year and a further $140m in this financial year. 

Dr McArdle commented, "health should never be looked upon as an expensive line item in Tasmania's Budget but rather an investment in the welfare, wellbeing, and productivity of the Tasmanian people. 

More is required – this funding makes the current system sustainable. It does nothing to help fund new services that are needed in a growing community to deal with our ageing population and rise in chronic disease. We need additional doctors, and we need to pay them appropriately to attract and retain them in this highly competitive global market in which we operate. 

We cannot continue to rely on locum doctors. Dr McArdle stipulated, "there is no denying that huge infrastructure investment is vital for stimulating an economy, but this cannot come at the cost of investing in people. 

While a plan to get Tasmania out of net debt is essential, the timeframe in which this occurs must not add further strain to an already burdened health care system. 

At some stage, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will need to be reconciled, and this cannot come at the cost of the health system of Tasmania or lives will be lost. 

Dr McArdle said, "We support the government’s commitment to funding investment into the State health sector. Wcould not as a State or as a health system have coped with cuts to state government expenditure at a time when the economy is fragile, and demand for health services is increasing. Austerity right now would only lead to worse health outcomes and inevitably higher costs in the long run.

The Tasmanian Governments $4 million investment to commence Phase One of implementing the comprehensive recommendations made in the Independent Review the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services is recognised as a first step in the right direction. 

Last week AMA Tasmania welcomed the $45.5 million elective surgery boost announced by the Tasmanian Liberal Government. AMA Tasmania President Dr Helen McArdle added, "our elective surgery lists are at an all-time high, and any increase in funding for elective surgery is welcomed as this will help us manage that. 

We know Tasmanians are sitting on these waiting lists for far too long. In the interest of those patients, the AMA welcomes the additional health funding but would like to see this develop into long-term sustained funding that allows appropriate planning and recruitment of staff. 

Dr Helen McArdle said, "a permanent planned increase in funding would let the health sector better plan and resource for the management of elective surgery within our State and alleviate our heavy reliance on locums. We know that investing in your workforce is better in the long term for Tasmanians. 

Only sustained funding over the long term will assist in building public hospital staffing capacity to enable these waiting lists to be addressed and allow consistency in our delivery to help ongoing management of our waiting lists. 

All parts of Tasmania's health care system must be based on the reality that all aspects of the health system are linked and depend on each other to meet patient and community demand effectively this can only be achieved by investment in IT infrastructure and ICT strategy. We welcome the Government's announcement of the critical and overdue investment in ICT. The next critical step for the government will be to fund an electronic medical record system.

We must recognise the ever-increasing role of General Practitioners in the provision of health care to acute patients in rural hospitals and the community and ensure General Practice/Primary Care are consulted and involved in the creation of new programs and services. 

Dr McArdle added, "we look forward to working with the Government on how best to support General Practice to provide appropriate urgent care in the community. GPs have a profound influence on both health outcomes and health expenditures. To ensure that general practice is equipped to meet the challenges of providing urgent care to an ageing population and the growing burden of complex and chronic disease, the Government needs to deliver real resources to frontline GP (general practice) services."

Health is the best investment that our Government of Tasmania can make. >>>ENDS 

Published: 12 Nov 2020