Health enables us to live a good life, to contribute and actively engage with our community and to drive a strong economy.
But we know the current health outcomes for Tasmanians are not doing so well on every measure and across all ages and population groups.
So, I ask you, if you could imagine a health system that met your needs now and into the future – what would it look like?
As a Tasmanian not-for-profit health insurer, St.LukesHealth recently pondered this question with its Northern Tasmanian members, asking for their views on a new private hospital for Launceston.
When asked to comment on Calvary Healthcare’s proposal to create a co-located hospital within the Launceston General Hospital precinct, an overwhelming majority of our members supported the project.
Co-located hospitals are not new in Tasmania. The Hobart Private Hospital sits alongside the Royal Hobart Hospital; the North-West Private Hospital is located alongside he North West Regional in Burnie.
Co-location is a piece within a puzzle to better enable Tasmanians to access the care they need in a more seamless way, with more choice. It enables healthcare providers to share the same campus or building, specialists and services. It enables the health system as a whole to achieve efficiencies and develop different styles of care. Ultimately, it takes us a step closer to better health outcomes for all of us.
With a third of the state budget already allocated to health, this number is forecast to rise to 42.1 per cent of total General Government Sector expenditure by 2033-2034 unless something changes. This is not an option for a small state like Tasmania with a range of budget priorities and pressures.
We need to challenge the status quo on health in Tasmania. We need to work together with the state and federal governments and put the health needs of “Tasmanians” ahead of the needs of the “health system”. The current and future health of our population should be front and centre in our thinking.
Northern Tasmania has been given a once in a generation opportunity to change the way that acute healthcare is delivered to Northern Tasmanians through Calvary Healthcare’s proposal and it is one that we must get right.
There is huge potential for the project to change the trajectory of our current health statistics and give more Tasmanians the opportunity to live with good health, not with pain or waiting and hoping their name comes up like a lottery number on the long waiting list. And not just those who can afford to pay for health insurance but for all of us.
A project of this magnitude is the game-changer we have been waiting for. It has the potential to deliver health and life changing outcomes, which is why it is so important for our local community to have a voice in shaping our future as part of this proposal. The community will only extract the maximum benefit from this proposal if all players within the health sector work together to adapt and enact change rather just see this development as a standalone solution.
Some of the positive outcomes that could be extracted from such a development include:
- Improving our current health system by attracting and retaining specialists Co-located models attract specialists who can work between a connected private and public health system. This enables regions to build a strong health workforce whilst improving the opportunity for hospitals to acquire accreditation and registrars to gain recognition of the LGH as a training post that may lead to newly qualified specialists setting up in the region, which ultimately improves access and breadth of care services.
- Improving patient outcomes Public and private facilities can co-operate when it comes to patient care, ensuring that referral pathways are improved. It also fosters a culture of mutual support and goodwill between both hospital campuses. Those who currently have health insurance and present at the LGH for procedures that aren't offered in the private sector could then be transferred to the co-located private hospital, therefore increasing public bed availability and avoiding bed block in the public hospital.
- Stimulating the Northern Tasmanian economy Health is a significant contributor to the Northern Tasmanian economy and community makeup, accounting for more than 16 per cent of employment in the north. With healthier Tasmanians, we are likely to reduce absenteeism at work, increase productivity and improve workplace culture.
- Flagship medical research in our own backyard A research program within a hospital enhances the capacity of health professionals to translate health research into improved clinical practice and as a result, better patient outcomes. This benefits our community as the research more than often focusses on issues that are prevalent to the region in which they are based.
- Appropriate care in the appropriate place Care in the right place at the right time will lead to better health outcomes. We must continue to provide our community with personalised care and links to services in the community that can assist them. As well as preventing avoidable hospitalisations, delivering care in the appropriate place will enable health providers with a broader practice base for experience and training opportunities. Providing care in the appropriate setting will allow hospitals the ability to better allocate health resources and improve patient outcomes.
Northern Tasmania has a once-in-a-generation opportunity, a new private hospital which will not only provide services to the community in its own right for decades to come, but also act as a catalyst for change in other parts of the system to leverage better outcomes for the community. It’s a critical opportunity that we have to get right, to be visionary and set us up for the best health future possible.
Let’s do this right and do this now – for our current Northern community and importantly for the next generation.
- Paul Lupo, St.LukesHealth CEO
Winston Churchill once said that “healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have”.