Taking Mersey more complicated than it seems

Print

Another hitch in Abbott’s plan to take over the Mersey Hospital –
this time it’s the transfer of 400 staff from state to Commonwealth
employment.

Lara Giddings, Tasmania’s Health Minister, claims that
"deeply unpopular AWAs are the only legal way they have of taking over
the staff".

If so, the future of the hospital itself is
uncertain, because AWAs are indeed unpopular, particularly among nurses
who are already feeling the stress of work pressure. And health
professionals are in short supply; they can easily find work somewhere
other than in Devonport.

Even in the unlikely event that generous
salaries and hours are offered, health professionals will still find it
unattractive to work in what, thanks to the Commonwealth intervention,
has become an increasingly fragmented system in Northern Tasmania. The
isolation of Mersey Hospital from Launceston and Burnie hospitals puts
an end to any plans for regionally specialised services, where
professionals can exercise and develop their skills.

While Rudd
has promised to go along with the takeover, it is possible that these
labour troubles give him a face-saving way to reverse his support if he
is elected. For, as he has said in relation to the Mersey takeover:

We
believe that what Tasmania needs and what Australia needs is a national
approach, an integrated national approach to dealing with health and
hospital services, not just one plan for one hospital in one seat in
the country.

Delivery of health services
is already fragmented, with the states generally running hospitals
while the Commonwealth administers medical and pharmaceutical programs
– and even these two programs operate without any integration.

Taking
one hospital out of the state system adds to that fragmentation and
adds to incentives for cost-shifting and costly competition for scarce
resources, particularly professional staff. However well the community
board performs, its concerns will be the Mersey Hospital, not the
hospitals in Northern Tasmania, not the hospitals in Tasmania, and not
those people in Tasmania whose health care needs may have nothing to do
with hospitals.

If Rudd wins the election he should ask the
Tasmanian Government to return the dollar the Commonwealth paid for the
Mersey Hospital, and set about developing a state-wide integrated
health service, in consultation with the Tasmanian Government and
community representatives – as a model of a truly integrated health
care system for other states to emulate.

This piece is republished with permission from crikey.com.au

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title="" rel=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>