Fact-checking the health system in Tasmania

Tasmania’s health system is under increasing and sustained pressure due to our ageing population and the ever-increasing costs of health driven by new and innovative treatments.
More than 30 per cent of the Tasmanian budget is now dedicated to funding the public health system and recently the Tasmanian Treasurer pointed out that in the last financial year Tasmania spent $381 more per head on health than the national average[1].
Yet despite this, we keep on hearing of a health system in “crisis” and the official statistics – such as ballooning elective surgery waiting lists – lend support to claims of a health system under severe pressure.
As the numbers above clearly demonstrate, the public system is not free.
The government only has so much money, and if it wants to invest even more into the public health system then it will mean less money for other areas like education or police. 
The only other alternative is for the government to raise more revenue through higher taxes – and let’s face it, no one likes that.
This is why an efficient and effective private health system is so important.
The private system helps to take pressure off the public system, and provides an important alternative for people seeking treatment.
Private health insurance isn’t just for those with lots of money.
 In fact, of all the people with private health insurance, half earn under $50,000 a year, with another proportion on less than $30,000.
Many of these people are pensioners who often will need access to elective surgery and can’t afford the time spent waiting on the public list – not to mention the hidden waiting list of getting in to see a specialist, which is often just as long.
Along with a strong private health system, there is absolutely no doubt that as a community we need to place a greater focus on preventative health – as the old saying goes, prevention is better than the cure!
The recent move by the Tasmanian Government to appoint Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff as the Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing (with responsibility for preventative health), supporting Health Minister Sarah Courtney, is a great initiative and will hopefully see a lot more focus on this important area.
Not only is health the biggest spend in the State Budget, unhealthy people cannot contribute to our communities when they are unable to work, learn and innovate.
Last year, St.LukesHealth undertook a bespoke survey to better understand the current and future health status of 25 to 34-year-old Tasmanians and identify what lifestyle behaviours contribute to poor health and preventable hospitalisations.
The report identified that:

  • Poor dental health is the most common reason for preventable hospitalisations in the state with close to half brushing their teeth less than once a day or only once a day;
  • More than half are overweight or obese, a key factor known to cause chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease;
  • More than a third of men reported having safe sex only “sometimes” or “never” with chlamydia accounting for more than 95 per cent of all sexually transmitted diseases in the state;
  • More than one third of Tasmanians have reported accessing professional help for their mental health.

So not only do we need a strong private health system to support our public health system; to relieve the current pressures and future-proof our health system, we need to urgently support young Tasmanians and their families to form life-long healthy habits so they don’t become the chronically ill Tasmanians of tomorrow.

CEO St.LukesHealth
Paul Lupo

[1] State GST health spend claims “not accurate”, The Examiner, 4/9/19

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