Private-public partnerships a must for health of Tasmania

The future health outcomes of Tasmanians and building a health system that can cater to growing demand should be at the heart of the decision to support Hobart’s Nexus development.
Currently, there are more than 11,300 Tasmanians waiting for elective surgery in the public hospital system across the state. Adding to this, over 42,200 Tasmanians are waiting for an outpatient appointment. This is just so they can get in to see a specialist regarding their treatment and be moved to the elective surgery waiting list. These are some of the reasons why we are seeing more Australians take up private health cover in recent months.
The proposal for a private hospital in New Town has focused on planning issues, and how it will affect local residents. These are perfectly legitimate concerns and will be decided through the planning process.
But what should also be addressed by the community at large and by all levels of government, including local government, is the need for more health care services – be they public or private.
Tasmania needs private hospitals and health services to take the pressure off the public system.
What’s needed is a planning process that can deliver what the Tasmanian community desperately needs and locate these facilities in areas that provide ease of access and best serve the population.
The ideal is the creation of strategically located health precincts to deliver a critical mass of health services by both the public and private systems.
We already have that in Hobart at the acute end with the Hobart Private co-located with the Royal Hobart Hospital. There is also a proposal by Calvary to locate a new private hospital within the Launceston General Hospital precinct.
While the New Town proposal is not a co-location it does create a precinct that delivers a range of health services, adds value to the existing precinct and creates potential to attract other health providers to the area.
The State Government’s Co-ordinator-General, John Perry, in backing the New Town private hospital, recognising the contribution public-private health partnerships can make to the overall delivery of quality health care to Tasmanians.
It also should be said that the New Town residents who oppose the development by Nexus Hospitals and Tasmanian-based construction company Contact Group say they are not opposed to the development itself but to its height and scale. So, there is common ground at least for the principle behind the development of what will be called the Tasman Private Hospital and this common ground and the mutual benefit to the community is important to acknowledge.
The fact that Nexus – which operated 14 private hospitals around Australia, including a day-surgery centre in Warneford Street, South Hobart – has amended its plans and re-submitted a third development application to the Hobart City Council is a sign of its determination to deliver a critical project for Tasmanians.
But if, ultimately, the New Town site is a bridge too far, then there needs to be urgent consideration of other sites, so this opportunity is not lost.  And we need to send strong messages of support to similar developments so as not to deter proponents with an interest in expanding health services into Tasmania.
The focus – as it is for St.LukesHealth who represent over 63,000 Tasmanian members -- needs to be on the best ways to improve the health outcomes for Tasmanians. Private-public partnerships in both hospital and out-of-hospital settings are critical and in a small state like Tasmania where it is hard to achieve scale, co-location and health hubs are the best way forward in achieving the State Government’s laudable target to be the healthiest state in the nation.
Turning the Nexus opportunity into reality clearly is in the hands of both local government and the state government  to work together to achieve that result, ideally within a health precinct that delivers scale, capacity and convenience for both the people who need it and the practitioners who deliver these vital services.
After the year we have had and the ongoing challenges locally and globally with COVID-19’s impact, health is front and centre in the minds of all Tasmanians.  Collaboration and a determination to tackle our health system challenges is therefore the most critical priority for our shared future prosperity.  
Paul Lupo, St.LukesHealth CEO
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