We must change the status quo of health with once-in-generation opportunity

Hundreds of residents have been given the opportunity to share their aspirations for the future of healthcare and service delivery in Northern Tasmania.

Tasmanian not-for-profit health insurer St.LukesHealth asked 10,800 Northern residents spanning from Smithton in the North-West to Ansons Bay in the North East to have their say during December 2020 on an important development in the North.

More than 1300 residents aged 18 to over 65 participated in the survey which aimed to find out what Tasmanians think about Calvary Healthcare’s proposal to build a private co-located hospital in the Launceston General Hospital Precinct.

Co-location occurs when two hospitals or a hospital and another healthcare entity are located on the same campus or in the same building, sharing space, staff, or services. It enables the health sector to achieve efficiencies and develop different systems of care, producing better patient outcomes while attracting and retaining more specialists.

St.LukesHealth CEO Paul Lupo said the survey showed that a co-located hospital in the region was strongly supported by a community that was frustrated by not being able to access some specialists and services in the area.

“As a not-for-profit health insurer, St.LukesHealth wants to ensure its members are given a voice on this important development and we will continue to advocate on their behalf,” he said.

“As a state, we have the highest per capita spend in the health sector yet we have the lowest outcomes.  A third of the state budget is spent on health and this number is forecast to rise to 42.1 per cent of total General Government Sector expenditure by 2033-2034.

“Money is continuously allocated to more beds, more locum specialists and more elective surgery with little in comparison funnelled into preventative health. Private patients continue to access the LGH emergency department and birthing suite because there is no other option for them to access care. The burden is placed squarely on the public healthcare system.

“In the period from 2009-2010 to 2018-2019, the total number of presentations to emergency departments at the state’s four public hospitals increased by 17.3 per cent. Of this, the largest growth of hospital admissions occurred at the LGH by around 112 per cent.

“With a population that is ageing faster than other states and with high rates of chronic illness we really need to be at the forefront of how we will deliver health going forward so that the next generation does not experience the same ailments that are present now.

“We see huge potential in this project and not just for those who have health insurance. We would like to see the wider community leverage off the great outcomes this project could deliver with attracting and retaining specialists to Northern Tasmania as well as the potential to improve patient care and outcomes.”

“We need to challenge our current status quo on health.”

When asked why St.LukesHealth undertook the survey, Mr Lupo said it was important for the community to be consulted on this project as it reaches a critical stage.

“Calvary’s proposal is not new – it’s been with the Coordinator-General’s office for the past three years the local community needs to have a voice in this proposal,” Mr Lupo said.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity and we have only one shot to get it right. It is important that we have a say on the future of health in our region”.

The survey showed that:
  • 92 per cent of members strongly agree or agree that it is important for a new private hospital and the LGH to closely co-operate and share resources.
  • 86 per cent of members believe a new private co-located hospital should be physically connected to enable the ease of transfer from one establishment to the other.
  • 92 per cent of members expect to have timely communication of pre- and post-discharge information to their GP and other medical providers. They also want a clear pathway of what to expect before, during and after their hospital stay (92 per cent).
  • 90 per cent of members strongly agreed or agreed that a new private co-located hospital would enable the North to attract and retain more specialists.
  • 80 per cent of members who reported having frustrations with accessing private hospital services in the North said they were frustrated by lack of a private emergency department, extensive waiting times, costs, parking, travel times from regional areas, lack of specialists, outdated facilities, and not enough staff.
  • When asked if they believed a new private co-located hospital should combine resources with the LGH to develop a flagship medical research program for the region, 89 per cent either strongly agreed or agreed.
  • When asked if they believed a new private co-located hospital should offer its own emergency department, 76 per cent either strongly agreed or agreed.
  • For those aged under 45 these were the most important services to those in this age bracket: 1. Elective surgery (79.45%); 2. Being able to deliver my baby in a private hospital (64.73%); 3. Private emergency department (60.96%); 4. Palliative care (48.63%); 5. Acute hospital psychiatric services (47.26%).
  • For those aged over 45, these were the most important services to those in this age bracket:
    1. Elective surgery (93.44%); 2. Palliative care (76.66%); 3. Private emergency department (73.87%); 4. Chronic pain unit (72.13%); 5. Early discharge from hospital with follow-up care provided at home (51.59%).
  • When respondents were asked if they would expect to receive care outside the hospital setting and in the comfort of their own home, 84 per cent either strongly agreed or agreed.
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