RIP Royal Hobart Public Hospital – 15 February 1999

The once prestigious Royal Hobart Hospital is now nothing more than a shell of its former self Hobart Surgeon and Tasmanian Chairman of the Australian Association of Surgeons and the Australian Doctors’ Fund, Dr Michael Wertheimer, said in Hobart today.

Royal Hobart Hospital has been virtually closed for surgical services since November 1998 and has had its surgical beds reduced to 16 from 50.The concerns are not only for those patients who are being turned away but also for those trainee surgeons who cannot progress because of a hospital with no elective patients.

“The Tasmanian Health Minister had promised to restore the public hospital system prior to the last State election. However the Health Minister is now claiming that she needs to plug a potential $70 million health shortfall in the State’s Budget and is forced to cut back on surgical services.”

“We have to stop kidding ourselves that we have a public hospital system in Tasmania” Dr Wertheimer said.

“What we have are some buildings with virtually no-one in them and theatre staff who stand around twiddling their thumbs while patients bang on the doors but can’t get in.”

Executive Director of the Australian Doctors’ Fund, Mr Stephen Milgate, said “We are constantly hearing about the decaying public hospital system all around Australia. Royal Hobart Hospital seems to have reached a new low benchmark in non-service provision. It is time for a national policy statement about the state of our public hospitals.”

Dr Wertheimer said “Nobody envies the Health Minister’s job. However, Judy Jackson did promise to work miracles in the Tasmanian health system prior to being elected in late 1998. She obviously can’t deliver under the current hospital Medicare arrangements.”

“The reality is that the people of Tasmania and the tourist trade must have a viable public hospital system. The following course of action, although unpalatable to the Minister, seems the only one for the Minister to adopt if additional Medicare funding cannot be obtained:

  1. Publicly admit that Hospital Medicare does not guarantee Tasmanians universal access to health care.
  2. Conduct a thorough independent investigation into the Tasmanian health bureaucracy and close all desks that do not have direct impact on the delivery of hospital services.
  3. Seriously consider a means test to obtain some additional funding and look at new ways of raising sufficient finance to restore the hospital to its former glory.”

“The Australian Doctors’ Fund would be more than happy to work with the Minister to achieve these ends” said Dr Wertheimer.