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News

News

Here, you'll find all the latest updates, stories, and insights from St Lukes. 

Health Navigators guide Tasmanians through the healthcare system

A new St Lukes Health Navigation service is helping demystify the state’s healthcare system, putting Tasmanians on the right track to better health and wellbeing.

St Lukes Chief Health Officer Luke Cameron said the organisation understood that members often found the health system so complex, they simply didn’t know where to start.

“This is the case whether you’re well and looking for proactive advice to stay that way, have a health concern and are investigating screening options, or have received a diagnosis and are exploring possible courses of treatment,” Mr Cameron said.

“To address this issue in a proactive, positive way, we’re providing St Lukes members and the community free access to our Health Navigators who specialise in navigating the healthcare system.

“Our Heath Navigators are non-clinical professionals, complementing people’s relationships with their primary treating practitioners.”

The latest Primary Health Tasmania 
Needs Assessment Report 2022-2025 sparked the idea for the service, revealing that most people enter the health system through their GPs, with the average Tasmanian seeing their doctor seven times a year.

But with an ageing population, increasingly complex health issues, GPs strained by heavy workloads, and the need for early intervention to keep people out of hospital, St Lukes is perfectly positioned to play a role in helping people find the information they need to get well, or stay well.

Health Navigation service user Madeleine Maloney said she went in to discuss a range of health concerns, and came out with practical ideas, solutions, and a plan for the way forward.

“It was a huge relief. Confidential, competent, we did research on the spot and the health navigator followed up with links and references after the session,” Madeleine said.

“It’s a very generous offer. I spent an hour one-on-one with someone interested in health, there was no hard sell, just a genuine conversation based on navigating health systems that are complicated, and getting more complicated.

“We have an excellent GP, but doctors are overworked. This service is an amazing example of the change and collaboration that St Lukes is driving for. Take it up, I guarantee it will be useful!”

Anyone can access the free service at St Lukes’ Hobart wellness hub face-to-face, online, or by phone. St Lukes will shortly rollout the service statewide, where it will be especially critical for people in regional communities who have the most challenges accessing healthcare.

“It was important to make this available to everyone – both St Lukes members and the wider public – to progress our vision of making Tasmania the healthiest island on the planet,” Mr Cameron said.

ENDS

More information: Jacquie Ray, Timmins Ray – 0429 683 779 | jacquie@timminsray.com.au

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Donations urgently needed to help relieve the Christmas cost crunch

As demand soars for Christmas support services, two Tasmanian organisations are calling on the community to help make the season special for those most in need.

Hobart City Mission and St Lukes are joining forces on a Christmas donation drive this December. People can leave an unwrapped new toy under the St Lukes Hobart Christmas tree until end-of-business on Thursday 14th December. Toys, non-perishable food and financial donations can also be given directly at City Mission’s Hobart and Moonah offices until 5pm that day.

Hobart City Mission CEO Harvey Lennon said the local community needed support more than ever this Christmas.

“The increased cost of living and housing crisis are continuing to put pressure on the people of southern Tasmania, and without donations we can’t meet this increasing demand,” Mr Lennon said.

“Since applications for our Christmas Assistance Program opened in October, we’ve been inundated with more than 1,648 families – including almost 3,000 children – applying for assistance.

“That’s a 63 per cent increase in families compared to 2022, and a 72 per cent increase in the number of kids affected.

“We talked to one mum recently who was so grateful for the support she received last year. She said Christmas had always been a special time for her family. It was only because of this support that she could make Christmas special for her kids too – just how she remembered with her own mother.”

The Christmas Assistance Program surge reflects the growing demand on Hobart City Mission’s Emergency Relief program, where the number of food packs handed out every month has increased by around 30 per cent.

St Lukes CEO Paul Lupo said the organisation was delighted to support the Christmas donation drive with a gift of its own – a $10,000 donation to the appeal – as well as providing an easy-access central location for people to drop in with their presents.

“Rising cost-of-living is impacting us all, but when times are tough Tasmanians are very good at coming together and rallying around those most in need,” Mr Lupo said.

“If you can, give what you can. A small donation can have a big impact on families who are doing it tough. Giving also builds social connectedness and improves everyone’s mental health, which aligns with our vision of making Tasmania the healthiest island on the planet.

“We’re thrilled to contribute $10,000 to the cause. Let’s take care of each other this Christmas and spread joy and wellbeing to every home.”

Donation points
Where: St Lukes Hobart (corner of Liverpool and Elizabeth Streets)
What: Unwrapped new toys
When: Until 5pm Thursday 14th December

Where: Hobart City Mission, 50 Barrack St Hobart or 11 Main Rd Moonah
What: Non-perishable food items, unwrapped new toys and financial donations (Barrack St office, online at
hobartcitymission.org.au or over the phone on 6215 4200)
When: Until 5pm Thursday 14th December
 
ENDS
Further information: Emily Woodgate, Timmins Ray Public Relations: emily@timminsray.com.au

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Tasmanian parents given exclusive lesson on raising tech-healthy humans

St.LukesHealth is providing parents and carers with an exclusive opportunity to hear from Tasmanian multi award-winning author on parenting and TEDx speaker, Daniel Sih, on how to raise tech-healthy humans in Hobart next month.

Southern Regional Manager, Kate Denmen, said St.LukesHealth was thrilled to host the free session to give parents a deeper philosophy of technology, as it related to themselves and their children, enabling them to establish healthier habits.

“This is just one of the ways we’re helping to drive positive generational change, which forms an important part of our vision to make Tasmania the healthiest island on the planet,” Mrs Denmen said.

Mr Sih this year won Best Parenting Book in the eLit Book Awards (USA) and a Silver Medal in the Best Family/Parenting Book category of the Best Living Now Book Awards (USA).

His 2023 TEDx talk on the topic of kids and tech has had more than 200,000 views since May and his books have been endorsed by world-renowned Tasmanian parenting author, Steve Biddulph.

According to Mr Sih, social media and early interactive tech use is making young people less happy, increasing mental health issues, and damaging their ability to focus, control their emotions, and learn in constructive ways. 

“Digital technology is miraculous, useful and essential for young people, as it is the world they will navigate as adults, but too much time online, the wrong type of time online, at too young an age, can be harmful to their health, learning, and happiness,” Mr Sih said.

“To learn throughout life, young people need to learn how to focus, concentrate, and hold attention, but early use of interactive media through devices trains our brains to require constant stimulation, novelty and non-linear thinking.

“This is bad for learning because ultimately, if our kids are to grow up to be leaders in their fields, including technology, they first need a brain that can focus and learn.”

Mr Sih said eyesight was also deeply impacted by near-work (versus far work), so parents needed to know what types of screens were better for their children.

“There is a myopia epidemic that will hit us in 50 years because of early handheld device use, with the World Health Organisation predicting 50 per cent of the world's population will be near-sighted or myopic by 2050,” he said.

“As a society, we all need to slow down in giving kids interactive devices (such as tablets and phones) and social media, because most of the apps used by kids are designed to fracture their attention, create addiction, and stimulate anxiety-producing parts of the brain. 

“I teach a seven-step program to help parents re-think the way they introduce technologies, not to reject the value of digital technology, but to go slower, then grade up as kids grow up.”

Mr Sih’s book was released in December 2022 and has been hugely popular among schools and parenting communities, with a number of independent primary schools across Tasmania purchasing copies for every parent.

Mrs Denmen encouraged any Tasmanian with an interest in how to raise tech healthy young people to come along to the free event next month for an exclusive opportunity to hear from Daniel.

“It is our aim to make our Hobart health and wellbeing space a valued place for our members and the entire Tasmanian community, to enable preventative health, early intervention and positive generational change,” Mrs Denmen said.

The free session will be held on Monday 6 November from 6pm – 7.30pm. 
ENDS
 
For more information: Jacquie Ray, Timmins Ray Public Relations: 0429 683 779.

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Tasmanians incentivised to prioritise their health in the face of rising living costs

Tasmanians feeling the pinch from the rising cost of living are being incentivised to keep their families’ health at the top of their priorities.

Tasmanian not-for-profit health insurer, St.LukesHealth, has teamed up with Tasmanian Independent Retailers to offer new members a free IGA gift card worth up to $500 to help families with their grocery costs.*

Chief Operating Officer, Darren Harris, said recent figures revealed more than three-quarters of the Tasmanian community were feeling the pressure from inflation, specifically when it came to feeding the family.

“We know food insecurity is a rapidly growing problem for families in this state, ranging from having to reduce the quality and variety of food, to extreme measures such as regularly skipping meals,” Mr Harris said.

“More than 86 per cent of our members are Tasmanian, and we understand that family budgets are just not stretching as far as many people need them to.

“We know people are finding the cost of living extremely challenging in the present economic climate, and we are determined to help in any way we can to ease that burden.”

IGA Tasmania Head of Marketing, Travis Allen, said with more than 85 stores across the state, IGA was delighted to provide new St.LukesHealth members with the opportunity to shop local and save on groceries.

Mr Harris said the IGA affiliation and offer was just one of the ways St.LukesHealth was working to make Tasmanians healthier.

“We take our role in the community extremely seriously and we know what it means to support our members, and that includes new members,” he said.

*Offer ends 13 October 2023. Must maintain product for 30 days to receive voucher. Offer available to new Tasmanian members only. T&Cs apply. 

ENDS
 
For more information: Jacquie Ray, Timmins Ray Public Relations: 0429 683 779.

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Collaboration aims to help Tasmanians stay healthy and move into homes

Tasmanians are set to benefit from a new alliance between prominent local organisations, St.LukesHealth and Bank of us, with the announcement of a number of exclusive offers.

Bank of us CEO Paul Ranson said the first phase of the collaboration will help Tasmanians to take control of their health and get into homes sooner.  

“We are coming together to reward the Tasmanian community for supporting us over the years, offering financial benefits to both new and existing customers to say thank you.

“We understand some Tasmanians are doing it really tough right now, with the rising cost of living, and we encourage our customers and members to get in touch to see how we can help,” Mr Ranson said.

St.LukesHealth CEO Paul Lupo said through the new alliance, the two organisations were committed to improving the physical, mental and financial health and wellbeing of all Tasmanians.

“St.LukesHealth has set an ambitious vision to make Tasmania the healthiest island on the planet, and as part of our commitment to this, we’re focusing on things that will help make a positive difference to people’s lives and improve their overall health and wellbeing,” Mr Lupo said.

Mr Ranson said the collaboration aligns with the Bank’s two key impact priorities – to contribute to improving the financial literacy of Tasmanians, and to help more Tasmanians into homes.

“We’ve been fortunate to be able to help Tasmanians into homes for more than 153 years, making a difference to the lives of Tasmanians,” Mr Ranson said.

“In the next phase of our alliance with St.LukesHealth, we’ll be identifying even more ways we can work together to provide powerful, positive outcomes for Tasmanians.”

Mr Lupo said both organisations have a proud Tasmanian heritage and are dedicated to the betterment of the state, and he hoped to see many in the community making the most of the unique collaboration and offering.

For more information on the exclusive offers, visit our member benefits page.

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Tasmanian parents and carers given skills to save their children’s lives

Tasmanian parents and carers have been given the skills to save their children’s lives, with a specialised first aid program for babies and young children, aimed at preparing them for an emergency and equipping them with the confidence to handle common health issues.

St.LukesHealth Southern Regional Manager, Kate Denmen, said the two-hour session – facilitated by Jason Crusius from First Up and hosted in St.LukesHealth Hobart – provided participants with vital information about children’s health, first aid and safety in a non-judgmental, friendly environment.

“Baby + Child First Aid Tasmania sessions are delivered by qualified health professionals, trained in accordance with current recommendations and guidelines at a low cost of $6,” Mrs Denmen said.

Late last year, St.LukesHealth invited the community to vote on the types of programs they’d like to see in the new CBD space – from therapy dogs to try-it-out sports days, partner pop-ups to lunchtime orchestral performances.

Mrs Denmen said the response was overwhelming, and after tallying hundreds of votes, the organisation had developed a diverse program of services and events that responded to the expectations of the community.

“Since opening our doors to the public late last month, we’re thrilled to see so many different organisations making the most of our space to deliver valuable health services such as this,” Mrs Denmen said.

“It is our aim to make this a valued place for our members and the entire Tasmanian community to seek help in understanding and navigating the healthcare system as well as learn, explore, be inspired, and take charge of their health and wellbeing.

“This is just another way we’re working towards our vision to make Tasmania the healthiest island on the planet.”

ENDS

For more information: Jacquie Ray, Timmins Ray Public Relations: 0429 683 779.

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New community health and wellbeing hub opens its doors in the heart of Hobart’s CBD

A new health and wellbeing hub in the heart of Hobart’s CBD will open its doors to the public tomorrow, with an immediate offering of programs and services available to the whole community.

St.LukesHealth Southern Manager, Kate Denmen, said the iconic central space would incorporate initiatives as voted by the public, all with the aim of empowering Tasmanians to take control of their health and wellbeing.

“St.LukesHealth was thrilled to see the community embrace the opportunity to have their say on what they wanted to see in the space, tallying hundreds of votes on a range of suggested activities,” Ms Denmen said.

“Our most popular concept 'Movers and Shakers', won the most votes, telling us the community craves invigorating classes that promote movement and wellness, from Pilates and yoga to breath work and a running club.

“Our ‘Right Care, Right Time, Right Here’ concept came in at a close second, revealing a community need for support in navigating the health journey by having the right information at the right time.

“We will provide access to a team to guide people as they undertake the treatment they need to return to their healthy selves, whether that be advice about how to prepare and what to expect in hospital or getting ready to return to everyday life.

Partnering organisations today came together to inspect the new space where they will be providing specialised programs, services and classes to help promote health education and wellbeing to Tasmanians.

Personal Trainer Ella Crocombe, aka Coach Ella, said she was equally excited to go on this health journey with St.LukesHealth.

“I myself have several chronic illnesses, so I decided to learn how to specialise in rehab and help other people who suffer from the same thing,” Coach Ella said.

“Beginning in Women’s Health Week, I’m going to be pairing up with St.LukesHealth to provide free sessions to other people like me who suffer from chronic pain, in particular pelvic pain.”

Co-owner of Udara Movement Studio, Kate Cashman, said the new space would provide better opportunities for movement, meditation, and wellbeing for Tasmanians right in the heart of Hobart city.

“We will be teaching people, in a non-intimidating way, to try and move in a way that will support them in their day-to-day work, while also bringing a sense of calmness and wellness to their everyday lives,” Ms Cashman said.

Clinic leader and exercise physiologist at Kieser Hobart, Josh Miller, said having access to the new CBD space would help bring the science of Keiser even closer to the Tasmanian community.

“Kieser is obsessed with achieving outcomes for our clients and we’re really excited about the potential for others in the community to benefit from our expertise in exercise and its benefits for our health,” Mr Miller said.

Ms Denmen said interest in the space was increasing by the day, with events already lined up with other key Tasmanian organisations, including the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation, the Cancer Council Tasmania and Dress for Success.

“St.LukesHealth Hobart will be a wonderful place for our members and the Tasmanian community to visit, a place to seek help in understanding and navigating the healthcare system – for anyone who wants to be aware, explore, be inspired, and take charge of their health and wellbeing,” Ms Denmen said.

“We’re excited to open our new Hobart home tomorrow, and we are eager to welcome everyone, as we continue our work to make Tasmania the healthiest island on the planet.”

ENDS
 
For more information: Jacquie Ray, Timmins Ray Public Relations: 0429 683 779.

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Collaboration leads to healthy outcomes

Tasmanians understand better than anyone else the power of a connected community and what we can achieve together when we collaborate, writes St.LukesHealth CEO Paul Lupo. 

I never cease to be amazed at the Tasmanian community’s natural ability to come together for a common goal. Our collective capacity to collaborate, with a shared sense of purpose and pride, has allowed us to do things differently to other states.

This is a reality that should be capitalised by other local organisations, to think outside the square and set even more adventurous goals, knowing we are in the right place to achieve them.

It was our confidence in the community’s ability to work and find solutions together, that allowed St.LukesHealth to set our ambitious vision to make Tasmania the healthiest island on the planet.

When it comes to our health and wellbeing, collaboration is critical. If there’s one thing we have learned in the health sector, it’s that simply throwing money at a problem doesn’t buy you a solution.

At St.LukesHealth we’ve always advocated for a holistic approach to our health system. We know from experience that exploring public and private partnerships strengthens our response to health challenges.
Working with other Tasmanian individuals, organisations and governments to find ways to make our communities healthier and happier is inherent in everything we do as a business.

This is demonstrated in our collaboration with the Department of Health and our northern health partners on the co-located hospital in Launceston. We surveyed our members to inform our advocacy efforts for the right services in the right settings.

It is demonstrated in our pilot program delivered in partnership with Keiser, designed to prevent Tasmanians from having avoidable hip or knee joint replacement surgery, taking pressure off the state’s surgery waiting lists.  
Our collaborations even extend to our member product offerings, partnering with other Tasmanian organisations, including local IGA supermarkets and Bank of us, to ease the burden of rising living costs.

We are currently bringing together a coalition to create a smoke free generation in the face of rising rates of teen smoking for the first time in 25 years.

And finally, our two major builds in the north and south of the state are bringing together Tasmanian architects, builders, manufacturers, craftsmen and designers to create beautiful, calm and welcoming health spaces the whole community can access and enjoy.

Today, we open the doors to the public on the first of our community health and wellbeing hubs, right in the heart of Hobart’s CBD.

This prime location, accessible to all, will be so much more than a transactional space – we were determined to build something exciting and inclusive that goes to the heart of Tasmanians’ health and wellbeing.

A place where we could put our vision into practice – where the community can start taking small steps to improve their health and wellbeing, in a really tangible, accessible way.

Through working with other Tasmanian organisations we have already locked in a broad variety of programs, ensuring the space is genuinely a place for everyone.

Building our Tasmanian brand instils confidence to invest, confidence in ourselves as a state, and allows us to raise our expectations for ourselves.
 
For St.LukesHealth, that confidence allowed us to set our bold vision, which has in turn enabled us to attract good professionals, hungry for challenge and opportunity, back into the state and into our business.  
But we couldn’t do all that on our own of course. Collaboration has supported us to lift the bar for ourselves.
 
Tasmania is small and special and that allows us to do things differently. Let’s capitalise on this, with the confidence to take considered risk and invest in our community’s ability to collaborate.  
 
Paul Lupo is the CEO of Tasmanian not-for-profit health insurance provider St.LukesHealth.

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New health and wellbeing hub unveils majestic all-Tasmanian sassafras installation

A magnificent all-Tasmanian sassafras installation has been revealed today in Hobart’s CBD, as part of a new public-inspired health and wellbeing hub.

Set to open its doors on August 21, the St.LukesHealth member and community space features a visually stunning installation, designed to resemble the inside of a tree, crafted by an all-Tasmanian team using the native wood Blackheart Sassafras.

The timber installation stands 3.6 metres high and 56 metres long – a testament to the organisation’s commitment to fostering a healthier community in environmentally sustainable spaces.

CEO Paul Lupo said the iconic central space would incorporate services and activities as voted by the public during an open weekend late last year, to empower Tasmanians to take control of their health and wellbeing.

“The majestic installation will welcome everyone into the space, designed by Tasmanian architects Terroir and brought to life by Vos Constructions, who invested more than 1,500 hours into its creation,” Mr Lupo said.

Terroir Project Leader Jack Andrews said the installation was designed to bring the city inside, shaped like a tree hollow, to stimulate the imagination.

“Hollows, when found in nature, are a natural form of shelter which sustain all forms of life, so drawing on that concept seemed an appropriate theme for St.LukesHealth in its aim to make Tasmania the healthiest island on the planet,” Mr Andrews said.

VOS Construction Manager Stuart Percey said the process for building the timber installation was based on guitar manufacturing and a clinker-built timber dinghy technique.

“It was a pleasure to work on this truly unique, Tasmanian installation, with the client, designer, supplier, timber and builder all being from our island state,” Mr Percey said.

St.LukesHealth invited the community to vote on ideas for the new CBD space – from therapy dogs to try-it-out sports days, partner pop-ups to lunchtime orchestral performances.

Mr Lupo said the response was overwhelming, and after tallying hundreds of votes, he was thrilled to announce the top three choices as voted by the public.

“Our most popular concept 'Movers and Shakers', won the most votes, telling us the community craves invigorating classes that promote movement and wellness, from Pilates and yoga to breath work and a running club.

“Our ‘Right Care, Right Time, Right Here’ concept came in at a close second, revealing a community need for support in navigating the health journey by having the right information at the right time.

“We will provide access to a team to guide people as they undertake the treatment they need to return to their healthy selves, whether that be advice about how to prepare and what to expect in hospital or getting ready to return to everyday life.

“Finally, 'Yours For A Week' was an idea that garnered immense support, dedicating the innovative space to other health-related services, organisations or charities, providing them with exposure in a high-traffic area for an entire week.

“St.LukesHealth Hobart will be a beautiful place for our members and the Tasmanian community to visit, a place to seek help in understanding and navigating the healthcare system – for anyone who wants to learn, explore, be inspired, and take charge of their health and wellbeing.

“We’re excited to open our new Hobart home at the end of August, and we can’t wait to welcome everyone, as we continue our work to make Tasmania the healthiest island on the planet.”

ENDS

For more information: Jacquie Ray, Timmins Ray Public Relations: 0429 683 779.

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Smoke free generation closer than ever before

Right now exists a compelling opportunity to change the world for future generations, writes St.LukesHealth CEO Paul Lupo.

The Federal Health Minister’s tough stance on vaping is to be applauded, but it will amount to nothing if the Government doesn’t take holistic action to close the loop on tobacco altogether.

A new study released by the Cancer Council Victoria’s Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer has revealed teen smoking has increased for the first time in 25 years against a backdrop of rising vape use.

The data indicates a three-fold increase in current tobacco smoking by 14-17 year-olds in just four years, from 2.1 per cent in 2018 to 6.7 per cent in 2022. Preliminary data from the first quarter of 2023 reveals 12.8 per cent of 14-17 year-olds reported smoking.

Specific data on vaping revealed a shocking rise among 14-17 year-olds, with fewer than 1 per cent using vapes in 2018, increasing to 11.8 per cent in 2022 and 14.5 per cent in early 2023.

This is a staggering scourge on our society and especially our children.

We know that people who vape are three times more likely to subsequently take up smoking, so with vapes soon to be taken off the market, we are simply setting our kids up to become the next generation of cigarette smokers.  

The percentage of 14-17 year-olds both smoking and vaping has increased from 0.3 per cent to 4.4 per cent in four years. The earlier a person starts experimenting with cigarettes, the more likely they are to become a regular, long-term user.

This is the first time we’ve seen a rise in teen smoking since the early-to-mid 1990s, and let’s not forget, cigarettes kill up to two in three long-term smokers.

In Tasmania, the State Government’s Tobacco Control Plan Progress Report 2021, revealed that in 2017 as high as 4 per cent of young people aged 12 – 15 years smoked and 8 per cent of those aged 16 – 17 years smoked.

We still have the second highest rate of smoking in the country, contributing to an annual smoking-related death rate of 500 people. We also have the highest incidents of airways disease in Australia.

Soon, we will have a generation of young Tasmanians who vape, also poised to transition to cigarettes.

It is nothing more than a strategy by Big Tobacco that allows them to continue making billions of dollars at the expense of our children’s health.

Why on earth would we allow it?

Let’s not forget, tobacco is estimated to claim the lives of around 20,000 Australians every year – more than 50 people every day. This, paired with the recent rise in teen smoking, should be enough to make anyone shudder.

We are at a critical crossroads in our society, and we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect our children from one of the biggest killers of our time. But we must act now before these addictive behaviours become even more entrenched.

Let’s look back in 40 years’ time and say we did the right thing, not lament that we chose to take the easy road and exposed our children to something that need never have been part of their lives.

If the Federal Government is serious about reclaiming its position as a world leader in tobacco control, it must go further than simply introducing measure to reduce smoking rates.

Looking closer to home, why can’t Tasmania lead the nation on taking action to eliminate smoking for the next generation? We know from experience that we are perfectly suited to piloting community change programs – we’ve done so successfully with major national initiatives, such as the introduction of a total indoor smoking ban in 2006, and the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in 2013.

Tasmania cannot afford to wait for the Federal Government to enact change. Action is needed now. Looking at other states and territories who are already leading the charge, we must not be left behind. It will be to the detriment of our young people and generations to come.

Paul Lupo is the CEO of Tasmanian not-for-profit health insurer St.LukesHealth.

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St.LukesHealth supports Tasmanians’ oral health with new dental practices

Northern Tasmanians will soon have access to a new dental practice, with leading not-for-profit health insurer, St.LukesHealth, today announcing the opening of its very own practice in Launceston early next year.
 
The St.LukesHealth Dental Practice – to be housed in the organisation’s new Launceston Headquarters currently under construction – will be the first of a group of new practices planned across Tasmania, in a bid to ease the pressure on the state’s dental system.
 
Chief Health Officer, Luke Cameron, said recognising the crucial role essential oral health played in overall wellbeing was key to the organisation’s vision to make Tasmania the healthiest island on the planet.
 
“St.LukesHealth believes it is a fundamental right for all Tasmanians to have access to high-quality essential oral healthcare,” Mr Cameron said.
 
“With 16,500 Tasmanians waiting for non-emergency oral healthcare on Tasmania’s public dental system, we are keen to provide affordable and accessible services, supplementing and supporting existing dental health services in the state.”
 
Mr Cameron said the dental industry in Tasmania continued to strive for better dental outcomes, but strong evidence suggested more still needed to be done.
 
“Affordable and accessible dental care in Tasmania is a real and worsening challenge, with the number of dentists in Tasmania falling short of the national average by 25 per cent, placing considerable pressure on access,” he said.
 
"St.LukesHealth has a long history of supporting oral health providers in Tasmania. Our entry into this market as a provider strengthens our commitment to both the industry and Tasmanians seeking access to essential oral healthcare.
 
“It is well understood that good oral health directly contributes to improved overall health outcomes, so we are deeply committed to ensuring that every Tasmanian can attain and sustain optimal oral health.
 
“By expanding the dental network, enhancing accessibility, and promoting affordability, we are taking significant steps towards making Tasmania a healthier place to live.”
 
ENDS
 
For more information: Jacquie Ray, Timmins Ray Public Relations: 0429 683 779.

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Up to 100 Tasmanians set to avoid unnecessary surgeries

One hundred Tasmanians living with Osteoarthritis (OA) have signed up to a pilot program designed to prevent them from having avoidable hip or knee joint replacement surgery in the next 12 months.

OA is a chronic degenerative joint disease and a major cause of pain and disability for around 2.2 million Australians, anticipated to rise to 3.1 million by 2030.

St.LukesHealth Chief Health Officer, Luke Cameron, said the program was the first of its kind, not only for the organisation, but also for the state, providing an alternative to Tasmanians who had limited options other than surgery.

“We are thrilled to have launched this innovation, delivered in partnership with Kieser Australia – an allied health-led network of exercise scientists, exercise physiologists and physiotherapists,” Mr Cameron said.

“Joint replacement surgery is one of the major financial burdens on our hospital system and we know from Kieser programs conducted in Victoria and overseas that between 60-75 per cent of participants have managed to avoid surgery.

“The program is just one of the ways we’re working towards our vision of making Tasmania the healthiest island in the world, not only benefiting those who participate, but importantly easing the load on our state’s health system.

“Not only will the pilot provide another option for clinicians and patients who don’t want to either recommend or undergo surgery, but it will also deliver findings that can inform and facilitate the further development of alternative care models.

“This has the potential to take immense pressure off the hospital system, but most importantly, it empowers participants to regain control of their own condition and maintain a better quality of life.”

The program has been custom developed to improve participants’ condition through physiotherapy, exercise, strength development and education, in a safe and supervised environment.

Importantly, it also aims to reduce their pain levels and improve their ability to undertake and enjoy everyday activities, providing them with a long-term self-management program.

Case Study – Mark Newell started the program in December and completed it on March 14.

“The results have been amazing, and I have been recommending the program, and Kieser, to as many people as possible. I have also taken up a membership, to continue to build the strength needed to cope with my Osteoarthritis.

“My pain has dropped considerably (I would say by around 60% since I started), and I am feeling good. If the doctor had suggested surgery when I first went to see her, I would have jumped at the chance. Now, no way!

“St.LukesHealth needs to be highly commended for such a great initiative as this.”

ENDS

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St.LukesHealth has partnered with Healthy Heart Network to Combat Heart Disease in Tasmania

St.LukesHealth is proud to announce its partnership with Dr Warrick Bishop and the Healthy Heart Network to combat heart disease in Tasmania. This partnership is helping deliver St.LukesHealth's vision of making Tasmania the healthiest island on the planet.

Heart disease is responsible for an average of 118 deaths in Australia every day. However, many heart attacks and strokes can be prevented if risk factors are detected and managed early. As part of their mission to become the healthiest island on the planet, St.LukesHealth and the Healthy Heart Network are inviting 100 participants to take part in a pilot study program.

Chief Health Officer Luke Cameron said the program is designed to gain an understanding of the heart health of St.LukesHealth members and Tasmania as a whole. The first step to lowering your chances of developing heart disease is understanding your risk. Participation in the pilot study program is of no cost to members.

"There is a large population of Australians who are dying from heart disease, and we want to better identify those at risk through using a CT acquired cardiac calcium score (also called a coronary artery calcium, “CAC score”) to assess how the results alter management or not."

“The program's goal is to perform a basic cardiac health screening and, if appropriate, a CAC score. From there we can work together with Healthy Heart to raise more awareness and help more Tasmanians stay healthy,” said Luke Cameron.

Dr Warrick Bishop said the program consists of an online virtual heart assessment, visiting a locally situated CT scanner, and a follow-up survey every three months for 9 months. The program is delivered on a web-based platform with supportive educational resources and email communications from the Healthy Heart Network.

“This exciting initiative will more accurately define risk of heart attack and so save lives by identifying high risk individuals allowing therapies to be put in place before a problem occurs,” said Dr Warrick Bishop.

At St.LukesHealth, the wellbeing of our community is important to us, and we want to support everyone in ensuring that wellbeing is an active process of becoming more aware of and making choices towards everyone’s best health journey and overall healthspan.

Visit 
our website to learn more about the program and together, let us work towards making Tasmania the healthiest island on the planet.

ENDS

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St.LukesHealth survey reveals high levels of vaping concern

A survey of St.LukesHealth members revealed high levels of concern about vaping and vaping products, with almost 90 per cent of respondents stating they would support a vaping ban.
 

The exclusive survey, conducted by St.LukesHealth, also found 95 per cent of people surveyed were concerned about vaping as a health issue, with almost 80 per cent stating they were “very concerned”.

St.LukesHealth CEO Paul Lupo said the organisation had been urging policymakers to take note of growing community concern, take a stand and ban vaping and vaping products.

“We have a once-in-a-generation chance to do the right thing by our kids and make sure Big Tobacco doesn’t find another way to trap people into a lifetime of addiction, chronic disease and premature death,” Mr Lupo said.

“Our survey gives clear evidence that people are worried and want to see vapes banned, so governments need to take heed and stop allowing these products to fall into the hands, mouths and lungs of our children.”

Mr Lupo said he welcomed recent comments from Federal Health Minister Mark Butler about the harm vaping was doing to young people and urged him to take strong action.

“If we are serious about improving the health of Australians, if we are serious about not wanting our children to come to harm, if we are serious about not having our health policies dictated by Big Tobacco, now is the time for strong action,” he said.

“Stopping a new generation from becoming addicted to another harmful product, with all the social and economic benefits that would bring, should be Minister Butler’s and the Federal Government’s legacy.”

Mr Lupo said St.LukesHealth had made a submission to the Therapeutic Goods Administration regarding regulation of vaping products.

“St.LukesHealth wants vaping products gone. The only place we see they potentially may have a role is under prescription to assist a smoker to overcome a tobacco addiction, in cases where other methods have not been successful.” he said.

“Good health policy isn’t always easy, but this is about our kids and what may happen to them if vapes are allowed to proliferate, creating yet another market for Big Tobacco and all the poor health outcomes that go with it.

“Mr Butler made all the right noises last week. For the sake of young Tasmanians, let’s hope he turns those words into action.”

ENDS

Vaping Survey 3

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Tasmanians are now eligible for free flu shot ahead of the 2023 flu season

We are urging Tasmanians to act now and make the most of free influenza vaccinations, with flu cases presenting early due to increased international travel and predicted to surge in the coming winter season.

“Getting a flu shot is your single best protection against catching the flu virus, and getting seriously ill from associated complications,” says St.LukesHealth Chief Operating Officer, Darren Harris.

Under the National Immunisation Program, free influenza vaccines are provided to some groups at a higher risk of flu-related complications. For those who aren’t covered by the Program, Tasmania’s leading not-for-profit health insurer St.LukesHealth is partnering again with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia to make vaccinations free for members with Extras cover.

“The flu shot is important to the health and wellbeing of Tasmanians, so we want to make it as easy as possible for our members to get their flu shots, for free.” says Mr Harris.

It’s especially important for Tasmanians aged 65 years and older, children aged 6 months to 5 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, pregnant women or people with medical conditions placing them at-risk of severe influenza complications to get the flu shot.

The Cancer Council says cancer patients have a higher risk of complications if they catch the flu. “If you have or have had cancer your doctor may recommend getting both the flu shot and the pneumococcal vaccination,” says Cancer Council Tasmania Acting CEO, Abby Smith. “If it has been recommended for you, it is important for you to get the vaccination to protect yourself.

“If you cannot get the flu vaccination, encourage family and friends you are interacting with to get vaccinated, as this will avoid them passing the infection on to you, which can put you at higher risk of serious illness if you are immunocompromised.”

Pharmacy Guild of Tasmania President Helen O’Byrne says this year’s flu vaccines are now readily available at pharmacies or GP clinics across Tasmanian communities.

“As pharmacists we understand that over the last couple of years due to lockdowns and border closures not a lot of flu has been circulating and many people have not received their usual seasonal influenza vaccination which places them and the broader community at risk,” says Ms O’Byrne.

“Where people have contracted COVID-19 their immune systems may be weakened - influenza vaccines will help with the immune response against infection. Flu vaccines, like COVID-19 vaccines, do not guarantee that a person will not get the virus but certainly reduce the risk of serious illness.”

“Covid is still circulating, so make sure you get your free Covid boosters - your local pharmacy can help you determine your eligibility, and both influenza and Covid vaccines can be given at the same time.”

Mr Harris says the flu shot is an easy measure everyone can take that has big consequences for their health, and the healthcare system. With local case numbers typically three to four weeks behind the mainland, it’s important Tasmanians act now and get vaccinated.

“We each have the power to do this one small thing – just get vaccinated – and avoid ending up in hospital with complications that could so easily be prevented.”

How to claim
People can check their eligibility for the free 
National Immunisation Program (NIP) Schedule, and St.LukesHealth vaccination benefit.

In partnership with the Pharmacy Guild of Tasmania, St.LukesHealth members can visit our website  to make an appointment at a participating pharmacy. They simply present their St.LukesHealth card to receive their free vaccination, no payment or claim needed. Pharmacists can administer flu vaccinations to people aged 5 and over.
 
ENDS

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Construction starts on health and wellbeing hub in the heart of Hobart

The first stages of construction have started on a new health and wellbeing hub in the heart of Hobart’s CBD, which will see an unused, prime piece of real estate transformed into an inclusive space for the whole community.

St.LukesHealth will open its new centre mid this year, with the aim of empowering Tasmanians with the knowledge they need to take control of their own health and wellbeing, including how to navigate the state’s health system.

The new hubs design goal was to keep Tasmania in mind by creating a calm space with an exciting Blackheart Sassafras design feature. This was designed by local architects and built by local builders to create a welcoming environment for our visitors.
 
CEO Paul Lupo said many in the community struggled with health literacy or found the health system difficult to navigate, and the health hub aimed to help fill that gap.
 
“This is a prime central Hobart location, accessible to all, so it was important for us to make it something more than a store, more than a transactional space – we wanted to build something exciting and inclusive that goes to the heart of Tasmanians’ health and wellbeing,” Mr Lupo said.
 
“Late last year St.LukesHealth opened the doors of the building to the public, with interactive displays of ideas for the space, providing an opportunity for the community to vote on their favourite concepts as well as inviting new ideas.
 
“As well as seeking the public’s input, we have been working with other health sector leaders to plan out the use, including how the space can be used to increase access to other important community health organisations.”
 
Mr Lupo said St.LukesHealth would partner with other Tasmanian organisations to provide a rolling program of wellbeing activities and education.
 
“While we in the health sector work on the big systemic changes, this is a space where the public can already come to start improving their health and wellbeing, in a really tangible, accessible way,” he said.
 
“It often just takes a series of small steps – seeds we can sew here in this space – and this is just one of the ways St.LukesHealth is working towards our vision of making Tasmania the healthiest island on the planet.”

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Time to stand up for our children

Every Tasmanian parent wants the very best for their children. We want them to be safe, healthy, and happy.

There is a new battle emerging in the public health arena, and the health and safety of our children is very much at stake.

Vaping is poised to condemn another generation to addiction and chronic disease – just as sure as tobacco smoking has done to generations before; evidence suggests non-smokers who start vaping are three times more likely to switch to smoking continuing the cycle of ill health and lifelong battles with addiction.

According to the 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, there were 227,000 people reporting daily use of e-cigerettes aged 14 years and over, this has increased significantly since then; making the need for generational change ever more critical.

While the extent of the problem is only just emerging, we know that children are in the firing line. Research suggests vaping is growing most rapidly among young people – to the point where one school in southern Tasmania has resorted to removing toilet cubicle doors in an, albeit controversial, attempt to discourage vaping.

Quit Tasmania Director Abby Smith said ‘although we are waiting for new vaping data among Tasmanian secondary school students, which will be available later this year, we know from other Australian jurisdictions that about 1 in 3 young people aged 14-17 years have used e-cigarettes.’

St.LukesHealth has submitted to the Therapeutic Goods Administration that the time is now to be bold and place tough controls on vaping. Controls which need to be unapologetically strict, well enforced, and geared toward protecting our children from an industry that has a new ‘in’, by marketing harmful substances to young people as if they were selling lollies.

The cross-sectional Generation Vape study in 2022 (NSW) highlighted how ‘Flavourings and taste’ was rated as the most important characteristic of vapes.

We have asked the TGA to place significantly tighter controls around nicotine containing vapes additionally we are also advocating for a tighter regulation of all vaping products, nicotine containing or not. Big Tobacco should not be allowed to peddle ‘flavoured’ vapes – regardless of whether they contain nicotine or not to young Tasmanians.

We don’t believe our children should be encouraged to take up a habit that increases the risk of them fighting addiction that may just last their entire lives, while shortening them, costing taxpayers massive amounts in chronic disease care along the way.

In the instances that a medical professional feels a patient may benefit from using nicotine containing vapes to cease smoking, they can still be prescribed and sold accordingly, but the import of any vapes, or the fluid they contain, for any other reason, must be banned.

We are asking government, both state and federal, as well as the governance bodies they control, to stand up and support generational change. We must act to stop another generation or more from being unhealthy, simply because it is a victim of a fatal addiction.

We need to set health policies to support good health – not health policies that support an industry to continue making money from addiction and terrible health outcomes.

This is a no-brainer in terms of protecting our kids and giving us all a chance to make Tasmania a much healthier place in the future.

Paul Lupo is the CEO of St.LukesHealth.

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Private health rate rise deferred for St.LukesHealth members

Tasmanian not-for-profit health insurer, St.LukesHealth, has deferred passing on any premium increases for its members until at least 1 July 2023, following the Federal Government approving private health insurers to increase their rates at an average of 2.9%.

“St.LukesHealth will soon be advising its members that it has achieved it lowest premium increase in the past 20 years. This has been aided by Australian Government’s reforms to inflated prostheses costs in Australia, albeit there is still considerably more work to be done in this space, and working constructively with providers to find new and innovative ways to provide more affordable care and greater access to services for our members.”

CEO Paul Lupo said as a Tasmanian insurer, St.LukesHealth understood the cost of living pressures families were facing across the state.

“We know people are finding the cost of living extremely challenging in the present economic climate, and we doing all we can to keep increases as close to zero as we can so as not to add to that burden,” Mr Lupo said.

“More than 86 per cent of our members are Tasmanian, and we understand that family budgets are just not stretching as far as many people need them to.

“With Tasmania’s CPI of 8.6 per cent outstripping the national average of 7.3 per cent, St.LukesHealth is doing what we can to make it as easy as possible for people to continue investing in their health care.”

Mr Lupo said the deferral continued St.LukesHealth’s long-term commitment to supporting Tasmanians and its members.

“This is the fourth time in four (4) years that St.LukesHealth has deferred increases in rate to alleviate cost pressures on members,” he said.

“We take our role in the community extremely seriously and we know what it means to support our members.

“We live here, we work here, and we understand that decisions made in interstate or overseas boardrooms don’t always factor in the real-life circumstances people are genuinely facing, and we understand the impact that can have.”

Mr Lupo said St.LukesHealth would continue lobbying for the Federal Government for further reforms to pass on greater prosthesis saving, changes that enable private health insurers to assist members in non-acute care settings and provide more help for people on lower incomes by restoring the private health insurance rebate,

“The rebate commenced at 30 per cent and was designed as a means-tested method of helping people afford private health insurance, allowing them to avoid relying on the overstretched public hospital system,” he said.

“This rebate has been eroded to the point it is now less than 24 per cent in some cases. Six per cent might not like sound like much, but it translates to Tasmanians missing out on millions of dollars in financial support, placing even more stress on people’s budgets.”

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St.LukesHealth welcomes future-focused perspective to its Board of Directors

Tasmanian not-for-profit health insurer St.LukesHealth has welcomed its newest board member, prominent Hobart futurist and DisruptiveCo Founder and Managing Director Katy Cooper.

Ms Cooper was officially appointed at the November 2022 board meeting. She takes on the role in addition to her position as Director City Futures for the City of Hobart, where her team is focused on engaging, creating and planning around future stories, strategic plans, urban design and mobility.

She is a certified Futurist, trained through Institute for the Future, POLI-Design at Milan Politechnik and Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies. She has also studied Disruptive Innovation at INSEAD.

“I’m thrilled to join the St.LukesHealth board because it’s an organisation willing to examine itself, the needs of its members and the whole Tasmanian community, and challenge the status quo,” says Ms Cooper. “The minute I heard St.LukesHealth’s ambitious vision to make Tasmania the healthiest island on the planet, I was sold.

“I firmly believe that no idea is too big, and by working through partnership we can achieve great things: values that St.LukesHealth shares. I’m looking forward to bringing my background in business strategy to help realise the company’s vision and goals.”

The appointment came as St.LukesHealth celebrated 70 years as Tasmania’s own not-for-profit health insurer, while setting its sights firmly on the future.

“We’re shaking up the health insurer business model: you shouldn’t have to be sick to get value from us,” says Mel Lukianenko, Chair of the St.LukesHealth Board. “We’re collaborating across the health and community sectors, helping to empower Tasmanians with the knowledge they need and finding new and different ways of motivating people to take control of their own health and wellbeing.

“We are so excited to welcome Katy to the team, because she brings a unique background and way of thinking to make sure we stay fresh and relevant going into the next 70 years.”

In addition to joining the St.LukesHealth Board in November 2022, Ms Cooper is a board member of Tasmanian Leaders Inc and Inclusive Innovations Tasmania. She is Program Director of FutureFest Tasmania and Founder and Managing Director at DisruptiveCo. She has 20 years’ experience in retail, customer experience and strategic management, human resources, financial services, tourism and hospitality and technology industries.

Ms Cooper’s appointment caps off an exciting few months for St.LukesHealth. In November the organisation launched the concept for a new health and wellbeing hub and customer care centre in Hobart, inviting the whole community as well as sector stakeholders in to consult on the service offering and program of activities in the space.

St.LukesHealth is also opening a new Rosny store to meet the needs of the growing eastern shore community and has launched an inspiring new brand campaign to challenge conventional thinking and drive generational change around health.

Katy Cooper

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The fight for good health

In the last week we have read so much about a public health system under pressure and failing the community, the ramping of ambulances, shortage of beds and now the shortage of GPS in an increasingly unaffordable Medicare system. As a consequence, Governments, health professionals, health organisations and health funders like ourselves have to make reactive and costly decisions on how we fund a health system to meet the growing challenges of an aging population.

Rather than being reactionary, what about if policy and decision makers take forward thinking and more proactive steps to assist the community in avoiding circumstances which promote poor health outcomes, and as a consequence place less pressure on the health system going forward and providing better health outcomes for the community.

We need to set health policies to support good health – not health policies that support an industry to continue making money from addiction and terrible health outcomes.

Vaping will claim the wellbeing and lives of future generations by indulging in a habit that is being promoted by Big Tobacco.

Sometimes, we need assistance in maintaining our good intentions, and that includes from policy makers who have the capacity to make it easier for us to be healthy or, at least, help make it harder for us to be unhealthy.

At this very moment, there is a compelling case for policy makers to take action to eliminate a situation which, if left unchecked, is expected to result in chronic disease and addiction over coming decades. I am referring to vaping.

The sole aim of tobacco companies is to profit from the sale of habit-forming substances that are likely to kill people when used exactly as intended.

St.LukesHealth is determined to fight back against this mounting threat to the health and wellbeing of our young people. It would appear to be a no-brainer towards our ambitious vision to make Tasmania the healthiest island on the planet.

We have submitted to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) that the time has come to drive a stake into the ground when it comes to imposing controls on vaping. There needs to be unapologetically strict and rigidly enforced restrictions introduced, to protect Tasmanian youth from an industry which is marketing harmful substances to young people as if they were selling lollies.

We are asking the TGA to make sure tobacco companies are not allowed to peddle ‘flavoured’ vapes – regardless of whether they contain nicotine or not. We don’t believe Tasmanian youth should be encouraged to take up a habit that increases the risk of them fighting addiction that may just last their entire life, as well as end it, costing the community massive amounts in chronic disease care along the way.

Every single aspect of vape sales and distribution must be regulated so their appeal to Tasmanian youth is diminished. This includes plain packaging and the exclusion of additives to give them a ‘cooling’ sensation, deliberately intended to enhance their appeal.

Where a medical professional feels a patient may benefit from using vapes in an effort to break an existing tobacco habit, they can be prescribed and sold accordingly. However, the importation of any vapes, or the fluid they contain, for any other reason, needs to be banned.

Our objective at St.LukesHealth is to get the TGA to take immediate action aimed at achieving generational change and protecting our Tasmanian youth from falling victim to the same sort of fatal addiction as tobacco, which has killed so many people entrapped by the addictive habit.   

We have a chance right now to stop our kids being coerced into decisions that will fundamentally place their health at risk for the rest of their lives.  

- Paul Lupo
CEO St.LukesHealth

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Doors open for donations at new St.LukesHealth Rosny customer care centre

Can you spare some pantry staples to spread the Christmas cheer this year? Tasmanian not-for-profit health insurer St.LukesHealth is joining forces with Clarence City Council and the Salvation Army to gather healthy food donations, ready to be handed out at the Clarence Christmas Brunch.

Over the coming week, eastern shore locals are encouraged to drop into the new St.LukesHealth customer care centre in Rosny Park with long-life items that form the makings of a meal.

“The annual Brunch provides everyone in our community with something to eat, somewhere to go, and someone to share Christmas with,” said The Salvation Army Clarence City Corps Officer, Major Joel Clifford. “Last year we served about 120 meals, and we also make the day special for our guests with gifts, vouchers and food hampers that can be won as lucky door prizes to take home.

“This couldn’t happen without the generous support of the local community and businesses. If you’re able, dropping off the basics for a square meal that could be put together into hampers will mean so much. Something simple where recipients can just add a couple of fresh ingredients to make a healthy dinner can make a huge difference.”

For example, a donation of pasta and sauce, rice and curry paste, or a burrito kit, along with some tinned veggies or legumes, could form the basis of a hearty meal hamper.

“St.LukesHealth is invested in the health and wellbeing of our members and the community as a whole, and good nutrition is a big preventative health focus,” said Kate Denmen, Southern Region Customer Care Manager. “That’s why we’re marking the opening of our new store by inviting people to drop off a meal donation for the Clarence Christmas Brunch, to ease the pressure on their neighbours who may need a helping hand right now.”

“We’re working towards our vision of making Tasmania the healthiest island on the planet, but that doesn’t always have to mean grand gestures – it can be as simple as facilitating community connections to make everyone’s Christmas a little brighter, and homes a little healthier.”

The new St.LukesHealth store is located at 2/7 Bayfield Street Rosny Park, and will be accepting food donations until Friday 23rd December. Currently a pop-up shopfront, it will remain open while fit-out is finalised early in the new year.

“We’re opening the Rosny Park customer care centre to meet the needs of growing eastern shore communities, who want easy access to discuss their families’ health cover needs face-to-face,” said Mrs Denmen.

With St.LukesHealth membership growing steadily as Tasmanians look to take control of their own healthcare, Hobartians can now access in-person customer service in the CBD, Kingston and on the eastern shore.

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Private health disrupter launches campaign to challenge how we think

A private health disrupter has launched an inspiring brand campaign to challenge the way we think, as part of the organisation’s ambitious vision to make Tasmania the healthiest island on the planet. 

Tasmanian not-for-profit health insurer, St.LukesHealth, has created a visually stunning campaign, depicting a young girl working studiously on a drawing, revealed at the end to be a map of Australia with Tasmania on top. 

The intimately shot visuals also show the young girl picking tomatoes at the local grocer, playing with her family at the beach and doing karate, accompanied by a compelling narrative: ‘Imagine how a change of outlook, can change your outcome. Join St.LukesHealth, as we work to make Tasmania the healthiest island on the planet’.

St.LukesHealth Chief Marketing Officer, Ben Davis, said the campaign was the first of its kind for the industry, and for Tasmania, calling for a complete rethink of our approach to health and wellness. 

“The brand campaign is just one element of a brave vision we are putting into action, backed by some big-picture health and wellbeing initiatives that focus on generational behaviour change and early intervention,” Mr Davis said.

“We are incredibly invested in this vision and we were determined to make an impact with the campaign, which was shot across seven locations in Tasmania by a global team spanning Japan, Singapore and Copenhagen. We’re thrilled with the final cut.”

Director at Sweetshop, Jared Daperis, said he wanted the film to speak personally to Tasmanians, with a local tone of voice and humility. 

“In order to inspire them to begin thinking about what a change in habit might mean for them and their family, it needed to look, feel and sound like Tasmania – the way the locals know it,” Mr Daperis said. 

Tim Holman, Founder of The Pangea Agency who created the campaign, said from the moment they heard St.LukesHealth was on a mission to make Tasmania the healthiest island on the planet, they knew they weren’t looking for a generic health insurance ad. 

“Such a bold intention for a business in a category as homogenous as PHI called for a simple but emotive story and a memorable key visual,” Mr Holman said.

“Our brand campaign highlights a fresh perspective for Tasmania and how a little imagination can help deliver a better future for all Tasmanians. It was a privilege to work on such an important campaign with such a highly talented and passionate team of professionals.”

The campaign will go to air on Sunday 27 November, with a full roll out across all media Tasmania-wide to follow. An exclusive sneak peek of the film can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/LN0s7MPIfe0

 

Campaign credits:

St.LukesHealth

Ben Davis: Chief Marketing Officer

Kate Marshall: Head of Marketing

Jo Mohr: Marketing Manager

 

Agency: The Pangea Agency

Founder/Strategy Director: Tim Holman

Executive Creative Director: Anthony Moss

Senior Project Director: Evan Johnson

Art Director: Zoe Marron-Davies

 

Production Company: Sweetshop

Director: Jared Daperis

Managing Director/Executive Producer: Edward Pontifex

Executive Producer: Greg Fyson

Producer: Tom Davies

DOP: Jani Hakli

Art Director: Lucy Crispin

Editor: Matt Osbourne

Colourist: Nicke Cantarelli

Online Artist: Jamie Scott

Casting: Aeshlie Wheeler (Tas Casting) and Peta Dermatis (Studio P)

 

Photography: Garth Oriander

 

Music: Charmed I’m Sure

Supervision: Dan Gibson 

Composer: Craig Wilson

 

Media: OMD

 

ENDS

For more information: Jacquie Ray, Timmins Ray Public Relations: 0429 683 779. 

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Transforming Outpatient Services Strategy

Getting Tasmanians timely access to healthcare is one of our state’s most critical issues. We all know something needs to change: with almost 8,700 Tasmanians stuck on public hospital elective surgery waiting lists, the business-as-usual approach to healthcare just isn’t working and is making the health budget unsustainable.

St.LukesHealth acknowledges and welcomes the State Government’s willingness to do things differently through its new Transforming Outpatient Services Strategy. It aims to help Tasmanians access care and services, close to home, much sooner than the grim wait times we’re living with today, while assisting the government with ballooning costs.

It takes a holistic approach to shorten wait times, improve communication, and modernise processes, as outlined by Premier and Minister for Health Jeremy Rockliff this week (A Healthier Patient Care, The Mercury Talking Point, 16th November).

The measures in the strategy are a step in the right direction, and in terms of what the State Government is able to control, seems properly targeted at achieving better access to care.

But it’s not just the State Government that needs to be a part of this plan. The Federal Government has a fundamental role in driving down demand for public hospital services.

Cost of living pressures are undoubtedly biting Tasmanian families hard and as a result of that, people may reconsider their investment in private health insurance. Unfortunately, every Tasmanian who feels they cannot afford to maintain or buy private health insurance represents another person destined to join the public hospital waiting lists, in the event they need anything other than emergency surgery.

The Federal Government must restore the means-tested private health insurance rebate as a matter of urgency. Once set at 30 per cent, the rebate brought private health insurance within reach of more people, taking significant pressure off the public hospital system. Unfortunately, the rebate has eroded significantly to less than 25 per cent in some cases – representing a whopping $23 million each year that is no longer being paid back to Tasmanians on low to middle incomes to keep them in the private system, and out of the public hospital system.

While it isn’t well recognised, two-thirds of all elective surgical procedures performed in Tasmania are performed in private hospital systems, overwhelmingly paid for by private health insurers on behalf of members who are making a decision to put their hand in their own pocket to fund their health care. So, despite meeting just one third of the surgical demand, the public hospital system is under constant pressure with long wait times. For the State Government’s measures to have the biggest impact, the Federal Government must do its bit to reduce the likelihood that people will drop out of the private system and be left with no choice but to join the long queues in the public system.

Restoring the rebate is a policy measure that would balance the demands in the health system, support the State Government’s aims and ultimately, deliver better access to health care for all Tasmanians.
 
- Paul Lupo
CEO St.LukesHealth

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Hobartians to help shape new inner-city health and wellbeing hub

What do you want from a new health and wellbeing hub in the heart of Hobart? Tasmanians are being invited to come in and have their say on the transformation of an iconic central space.

Across three interactive open days, Tasmanian not-for-profit health insurer St.LukesHealth will be throwing open the doors of a new centre planned for the corner of Liverpool and Elizabeth streets.

People can come in and check out activity ideas pegged for the space – everything from therapy dogs to try-it-out sports days, partner pop-ups to lunchtime orchestral performances – and share their thoughts on what else they’d like to see.

“We want people’s input on the health topics they want to learn about, what needs demystifying, and what would make them feel welcome,” explains St.LukesHealth Chair Mel Lukianenko. “And I mean everyone – this will be a space for the whole community.

“While a lot of the ideas are really fun, our new space will also fill an important hole we’ve identified in Tasmania. We know a lot of people struggle to navigate the healthcare system for example, or are unsure where to turn for information on health topics.

“It’s all about helping to empower people with the knowledge they need and motivating Tasmanians in new and different ways to take control of their own health and wellbeing. When we’re happier and healthier, we’re more likely to get on top of health issues before they even arise. Prevention and early intervention eases the strain on our healthcare system as a whole, but we’re not always good at knowing and doing what’s best for us.

“This new centre is a tangible example of how, after 70 years as Tasmania’s own not-for-profit health insurer, St.LukesHealth is breaking the mould and working across the health sector to do things differently. You shouldn’t have to be sick to get value from us. It all goes towards our vision of making Tasmania the healthiest island on the planet.”

The first open day was held on Saturday 19th November, to coincide with the Hobart Christmas Pageant. The building will remain open from 11am-2pm on the 21-22nd November, before the buildout begins.

“Health and wellbeing spaces are so important to add to the vibrancy of a city,” says Katy Cooper, who was appointed to the St.LukeHealth board on Wednesday and is Director City Futures for the City of Hobart. “It’s so exciting when an iconic central location is opened up as a public space.

“It’s even more exciting that Tasmanians are getting a unique opportunity to help shape the activities and experiences they want.
 
“I’m passionate about concepts that make Hobart a city for all, and help Tasmanians be our very best selves. I urge everyone to drop in, check out the interactive concepts, and have your say on what a hub should offer to be fun, informative, and ultimately help you improve your own health and wellbeing.”
 
As well as getting the public’s input, St.LukesHealth is also working with other health sector leaders to plan out the use, including how the space can be used to increase access to other important community health organisations. It will also be a new customer care centre for St.LukesHealth members.
 
It’s estimated the flagship centre will open to the public by mid next year.

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Vape plan is just smoke and mirrors

Legislators should be cautious in accepting the advice of the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry when it comes to reducing Tasmania’s smoking rates.

While TCCI boss Michael Bailey is right in saying Tasmania’s approach to cutting smoking rates needs a fresh approach, his advocacy for vaping as a magic antidote to tobacco needs careful examination.

Replacing tobacco with vaping – particularly vaping products containing nicotine – does nothing to address the harms associated with nicotine addiction. This is an addiction that impacts a significant number of Tasmanians.

Setting aside the fact that we don’t fully know the long-term health ramifications of ingesting vaping fluids, it’s a reasonably safe assumption that ingesting large quantities of anything into our lungs other than air is likely to be detrimental, as Mr Bailey acknowledged. We already have evidence that vaping can and is causing serious health impacts, including respiratory disease and increased risks of heart attacks.

Beyond the emerging health impacts, Tasmania has the opportunity to ensure real and meaningful focus in assessing the social impacts and costs of addiction – an area where the Tasmanian population is significantly over represented.

Fundamentally, nicotine is highly addictive. That’s why smokers want to quit, but can’t. Their bodies simply crave nicotine, to the point they struggle to cope without it.

Shifting the consumption of nicotine from tobacco to vaping doesn’t do anything to lessen this burden of addiction. A person with a nicotine addiction can lose a significant degree of agency in their life because they are compelled and motivated to feed and prioritise the addiction – sometimes at the cost of other fundamental needs.

That loss of agency is something we as a society should be mindful of. While trading off the ongoing health legacy attached to tobacco for the ‘oh, it might not be as bad’ mythology of vaping might seem like some sort of instant policy fix for one of the greatest health disasters, it doesn’t solve the problem that people will still be addicted and will still be prioritising that addiction when it comes to living their life, not to mention other emerging health needs we currently don’t understand.

There are no prizes for guessing who’s waiting up the supply chain for that money to land in its bank account. Big Tobacco – the very same companies who have churned out cancer-causing products every single day, knowing full well that they will kill people when used exactly as intended – has been quick to hitch its profit-driven wagon to vaping as cigarette use declines.

Mr Bailey’s vapes for cigs health policy would no doubt be music to Big Tobacco’s ears. Promoting vaping on the basis that it might be better for addicts than smoking is exactly what its bottom line is counting on.
However, contrary to the TCCI’s assertion that vaping products containing nicotine are “far less harmful than smoking”, the World Health Organisation has concluded that tobacco products and e-cigarettes both pose risks to health and “the safest approach is to use neither”.

Surely the best approach from governments would be to support Tasmanians with nicotine addiction through smoking cessation programs, rather than adding to the complexity of improving health outcomes of Tasmanians. That would be a truly fresh approach. When it comes to setting health policies, I’d argue the WHO is wiser counsel than Big Tobacco – and replacing one Big Tobacco tool with another is not a policy setting Tasmania should be contemplating.

- Paul Lupo
CEO St.LukesHealth

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Banning smoking is about saving lives

There is a compelling observation from a current smoker in the pages of the State Government’s Tasmanian Tobacco Action Plan 2022-2026: “If it’s not around, you’re not going to buy it and you’re not going to smoke.”

This gets to the very heart of what action is needed if the government is serious about reducing the health impacts from smoking.

Pleasingly, the report also contains an action that the government will review aged-based laws in relation to the sale of smoking products and monitor the progress of New Zealand’s ‘Smokefree Generation’ which will outlaw the sale of tobacco products to anyone born after a certain date, eventually, in theory, eliminating tobacco use.

New Zealand’s smoking rate is about 11 per cent. Tasmania’s is 17.6 per cent – the second highest in the nation. On that basis alone, let’s hope the Government’s review of New Zealand’s determined plan to rid the country of a product that has caused untold death and misery translates very quickly into some level of action the plan’s title promises.

The fact is, the measures outlined by the action plan, while commendable, don’t exactly paint a different picture of how the State Government is going to tackle an issue that costs Tasmania lives and money every single day.
Worryingly, it also contains a nod to the Federal Government’s role in tobacco control, in what could be seen as an attempt to make it clear that the State doesn’t, can’t, or won’t have all the answers.

Mass marketing campaigns, extra assistance for people giving up, better education for young people – these initiatives have been around for decades, and we still have a situation where about one in every six Tasmanians is lighting up, putting them ever closer to serious, if not fatal, health outcomes.

That’s not to say these strategies haven’t played a significant role in getting to where we are, but there’s an argument that if we are going to get serious about making Tasmanians healthier, then we need to start shifting the dial and be much bolder and braver in our commitment to change starting with smoking – and vaping for that matter – that needs to go.

As I write this, just over 100 Tasmanians have died of COVID-19. Since the pandemic began two years ago, more than 1000 Tasmanians have died from smoking, yet, for some reason, you won’t find daily tallies of smoking deaths reported in the media, even though it’s killing us almost tenfold more.

The millions we as a state have spent on COVID-19 measures; the discipline with which we as citizens have largely adopted to get vaccinated, stay socially distanced, wear masks – yet one in every six of us still legally does something that is almost more certain to harm us in the long term. In some of our more financially poorer suburbs, that smoking rate climbs to as many as one in every three people.

Six years ago, then-MLC Ivan Dean fronted Parliament and stated that the smoking buck stopped there. He outlined his plan to implement a Tasmanian smoke-free generation, banning tobacco sales to people of a certain age for the rest of their lives.

It didn’t get up. Lack of government support saw Mr Dean shelve his Bill. At the time, the Government was quoted as saying it saw “problems in terms of how realistic and workable” the proposal was. For a time, it appeared a spinoff result may have been a raising of the legal smoking age to 21 or even 25, but that was stubbed out as well.

So now New Zealand is moving on creating a generation of non-smokers by simply banning them access to tobacco. And we’ll look at how it goes. In the meantime, a few more thousand Tasmanians will take up tobacco smoking, and, in time, many of those will die from it.

The fact that it took four attempts to get Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation passed through Tasmanian Parliament, even though afterwards most people seem to think it was the right thing to do to aid people suffering with incurable conditions and wondered why it didn’t happen sooner, should be a warning to legislators.

Let’s not make the same mistake with one of the biggest health challenges of our time. It is time for action – bold steps that would have the biggest single impact on improving the overall health of Tasmanians for generations. We have to get over how ‘workable’ a ban might be and get it done. Now is the time to start saving lives.

- Paul Lupo
CEO St.LukesHealth

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Digital health decisions must be strategic

Paul Lupo
St.LukesHealth CEO 


The State Government’s commitment to upgrading the health department’s digital health systems in the recently delivered budget should be commended.

As a new premier and health minister, Jeremy Rockliff must have had moments leading up to budget day where he wondered whether announcing $150 million health IT upgrade would have as much wow factor in the community as, say, announcing $150 million to upgrade some hospital wards, buying some new medical equipment, or employing more doctors, nurses, paramedics or allied health professionals.

Without doubt, any of those perpetual health shopping list items are arguably more likely to generate bigger headlines in news cycles where announcements about jobs and bricks and mortar investment tend to result in more clicks.

However less exciting it may be, making sure the health department can click is vital.

It’s a simple fact that digital systems underpin pretty much everything we do, whether it’s running a business, a club, or a multi-layered health system with more than 15,000 employees, four major hospitals, an ambulance service and a public health agency.

And if the digital infrastructure that is supposed to support those things doesn’t keep pace or isn’t fit-for-purpose, it leads very quickly to inefficiencies – and that is something any organisation would rather avoid, particularly the one charged with providing acute and emergency medical care to more than half a million people.

Take a situation where a patient who lives in Northern Tasmania recently had surgery at the Royal Hobart Hospital and is at an appointment with a private specialist in Launceston for a different condition. The specialist wants to prescribe a particular type of medication, but the patient thinks they may have had a bad reaction to that type of medication while in hospital, although they’re not completely sure it’s the same one.

With a new statewide patient record viewer connecting all public and private health providers, as being promised by the State Government, the specialist only needs to click the patient’s record to check, resolving the situation in seconds. Without such a system, the specialist needs to carve out time, potentially delaying other patients, to make calls or send emails requesting the relevant medical information.

In the meantime, the patient’s treatment is delayed, maybe to the point they’ll need to wait to get another appointment, which again comes at the expense of another patient trying to see the same specialist. 

Multiply the scenario by hundreds of patients in a similar situation, and it’s easy to see how bogged down a health system can become just trying to manage relatively minor day-to-day administrative processes. The life-and-death examples of these stall points don’t bear thinking about, but it doesn’t take a medical degree to believe they must occur, particularly in acute care or paramedicine situations.

Digital infrastructure that allows better communication between hospitals, general practitioners, community health providers, allied health services and specialists is a fundamentally important step to increasing health system efficiency.

With increased efficiency comes the ability for different parts of what is a complex health system to work together better. That, in turn, increases the ability for effective collaboration, and ultimately, leads to better patient outcomes.

While a patient may not necessarily be aware of it, their health and the medical care they are provided can often be dictated by just how well the system as a whole works to support them and the people they are going to for care.

We know the public health system struggles to meet demand. We know it is still dealing with the fallout from a global pandemic, and we know as a community we are getting older and sicker. Similarly, we know that simply throwing more and more money at the health budget and hoping it has some miraculous effect on acute medical pressures and surgical waiting lists isn’t working.

Making a targeted investment in the infrastructure that essentially dictates how our health system can even start delivering care, not to mention potential game changers in wider use of telehealth to better treat our far-flung population, is a smart play, and one for which the State Government should be congratulated for.

It is now up to the Government to get this spend right. With almost half a billion allocated for a 10-year digital health strategy, these first steps are critical and will define how effective our system is for a generation. For all of our sakes, the decisions and implementation around digital health must be strategic, or the health of the entire state will continue suffer under the strain of greater demand.

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Time for new regime to address the state's health care at last

With the federal election over, Tasmania will look to newly minted Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s Labor Government to deliver on its promises and get to work on the issues the electorate wants tackled as priorities.

As The Examiner reported prior to the election, one of the biggest issues identified by its readers was health care.

On that score, it was pleasing to see the ALP and the Liberal Party both commit during the campaign to deliver funding for the Clifford Craig research and innovation centre. This supports the memorandum of understanding funding commitment from the State Government, and all but guarantees this much-needed facility can be developed and operate.

Through this funding, the Clifford Craig Foundation will be able to enshrine Northern Tasmania as a medical research hub. A state-of-the-art medical research and innovation centre will attract medical professionals keen to further research in their chosen fields, bringing exceptional medical skills into our community. This will not only benefit the patients they treat, but will help teach the next generation of doctors, specialists, and other medical professionals. Importantly, their health leadership will drive better policies and better models of care.
There is no doubt that a number of Tasmanian seats feature prominently in federal elections. Bass, Braddon and Lyons were all key marginal battlegrounds and saw plenty of pollie and media attention during the campaign.

But just because the national media packs have headed home and the election spotlight has been switched off, it is not the time for the incoming government to forget about the issues that remain important to Northern Tasmanians.

Access to health care in regional areas remains a pressing issue for both state and federal governments across the country, and the regional areas of Tasmania are no different. It is no secret that people in regional areas are not just sicker, but have lower life expectancies than people in metropolitan centres.

This is a significant challenge for Mr Albanese’s government, which will need to carefully examine all options to deliver health care to regional areas, like Northern and North-West Tasmania, to ensure equitable health outcomes.

Labor’s commitment to establish and trial 50 urgent care clinics across the country, including one in both Launceston and Burnie will no doubt be warmly welcomed by anyone who has had to wait hours to access care in overcrowded emergency departments. There is no doubt that taking pressure off our acute public hospital system is of paramount importance when it comes to removing barriers to accessing timely care, and although the details of how such clinics will operate are not yet finalised, these clinics should help to improve a critical area of care.

However, to ensure long-term improvements to health care, governments, including this new one, must be brave and set their sights on fundamental reforms to improve the entire health system, not just one part of it.

I have previously argued that serious reforms need to be made by the federal government to help the private health sector take as much pressure as it can from the public system, and ultimately, deliver better health care for all Tasmanians, regardless of whether they are among the one-in-two who have private health insurance or not. This includes allowing insurers to fund procedures beyond acute hospital settings and stopping Australians having to pay some of the highest prices in the world for medical devices. Both these measures won’t cost the federal government a cent, yet would play a vital role in keeping people in the private health system and lessening pressure on the public system, as would restoring the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate for low- and middle-income earners.

St.LukesHealth will continue to lobby for the federal government to make systemic reforms to take pressure off our public hospitals. I’m pleased we, as an organisation, were able to have some conversations with candidates during the election, and look forward to presenting our ideas to incoming ministers and shadow ministers to help improve health outcomes for all Tasmanians.

Every incoming government has an over-riding mandate regardless of their policy platform and promises; that is, to make our communities and country better places for everyone. Mr Albanese’s opportunity to do that starts now. Amidst all the competing priorities he will no doubt have to manage in the coming weeks, I sincerely hope improving regional health care is at the top of his list.

Paul Lupo, CEO St.LukesHealth

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Cost of living pressures threaten to worsen public hospital waits

Cost of living pressures are poised to worsen already critical public hospital elective surgery waiting lists in Tasmania.

St.LukesHealth chief executive officer Paul Lupo said the rising cost of living could see Tasmanians with private health insurance leave their health fund and have no option but to be dependent on an already stretched public system for all of their health care.

“In the past two years, as a result of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Tasmania’s public health system, about 10,000 Tasmanians took out health insurance with St.LukesHealth to ensure they could access the health care the needed.

“People clearly understood that the public system was facing significant pressure as it dealt with COVID-related impacts and decided to take responsibility for their own health care.

“But as cost-of-living pressures grow and family budgets are being crunched, there is a very real risk many of those people, particularly those on low or middle incomes, will have no option but revert to the public system where elective surgery waiting lists are already extremely high.

“In March, there were more than 9700 people waiting for elective surgery in the public system, where one in every three patients waits longer than the clinically recommended time for their procedure.

“People on low to middle incomes who have taken out private health insurance need every incentive and support to remain in their health fund and not add to the burden on the public system.

“More than half of all Tasmanians, about 275,000, have some form of private health insurance. Many of those are on low and middle incomes, but the federal government’s means-tested private health insurance rebate has eroded in recent years from 30 per cent to less than 25 per cent.

“While a five per cent rebate erosion may not appear much, it represents a loss of about $23 million from Tasmanian health insurance policy holders every single year.

“That money needs to come back to the Tasmanians who are not only putting their hand in their own pocket to help fund their health care but take pressure off the public system at the same time.”

Mr Lupo said with the private sector already performing two out every three elective surgeries in Tasmania, the public system would face further stress if people were forced out of private health insurance.

“The public hospital system is performing just one third of all elective procedures across the country yet it is perpetually at crisis point with lengthy delays for surgery. The queues will only get bigger if the federal government doesn’t do something to help people remain out of the public system.

“St.LukesHealth is calling on all parties at this election to reinstate the full 30 per cent means-tested private health insurance for low and middle income earners. Restoring the rebate will reduce demand on the public system and ultimately improve access to health care for all Tasmanians.”

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Robust private health system holds the key

For Tasmania’s health system, the federal election is looming as another missed opportunity.

Much needed structural reforms to our health sector simply haven’t been talked about. The few announcements that do concern health are based purely on providing additional funding sugar hits to try and help a system perpetually struggling to meet demand.

It is an unfortunate fact that election campaigns tend to focus on splashes of cash and bricks and mortar. A contest of ideas and policy around long-term reform of health systems simply doesn’t get a look in.

Parties of all colours seem only look at electorates, not outcomes. We need to shift our political narrative from short-term measures tied to election cycles to measures achieving long-term, sustainable outcomes where all Tasmanians can access the health care they need, when and where they need it so they can live healthier lives.

The importance of the private health system in the overall achievement of such goals is often, unfortunately, underplayed or altogether not recognised.

But it is a hard cold fact that more Tasmanians have some level of private health insurance than those who don’t. All up, more than 275,000 Tasmanians are members of private health funds. The logical outcome of this is that two out of every three elective surgeries performed throughout the country are done in the private system.

So, despite only performing one-third of the elective surgery load, the public system continues to groan under pressure of growing public hospital elective surgery waiting lists. People stuck on these waiting lists often develop more complex medical conditions and complications simply because they cannot be seen anywhere near clinically recommended timeframes. It then falls entirely on the taxpayer to provide even more resources to deal with a person who is much sicker than what they were when first diagnosed as needing surgery. Health systems should be geared to make people better, not contribute to a decline in their health.

At a time when cost of living pressures are crunching family budgets, people who are putting their hand in their own pocket to help fund their health care and take pressure off the public health system, on top of contributing to the funding of the public system, need to have every incentive possible to keep their private insurance and not become 100 per cent reliant on the public system for their health care.

As a not for profit private health insurer, St.LukesHealth would like nothing better than to be able to help as many people as possible to reach outside the acute public hospital system to access their care more quickly and in a more affordable fashion. We firmly believe it is better for people to stay out of hospital wherever possible and deliver care with the aim of keeping them out.

Unfortunately, government policy settings enshrine hospitals and hospital admission as the only gateway to care pathways.

Under current outdated regulations, private health insurers are only able to fund procedures when they are performed in an admitted hospital setting.

Private health insurance should be able to provide cover for procedures done outside of a traditional hospital, where clinically appropriate, by non-hospital health providers which are currently undertaken in a hospital.  Services like wound care, intravenous infusions, rehabilitation and other post-operative procedures could be undertaken under the supervision of a general practitioner, or other health care providers in a community setting.
 
This would have the immediate effect of reducing inpatient demand at our public hospitals.
 
Importantly, such a reform would allow fit-for-purpose patient care to be offered at a lower cost, with increased accessibility, and a focus on early intervention that addresses health issues before they become serious.

We need to ensure that private health insurance regulation provides insurers with the flexibility required to keep pace with modern care delivery settings, the changing health needs of our community and actually make it easier for people to access the care they need when they need it outside of hospital, which would in practice keep them healthier or reduce the length of a hospital stay.

Private health insurance reform is a critical piece of the health picture. Without a robust private health system, the public hospital system will continue to buckle and lurch from crisis to crisis.

Tasmania badly needs health reforms which will drive fundamental change in our health system.

Policymakers need to start seeing the health system in its entirety and allow people to use private health insurance to stay out of hospital wherever possible, not just for the good of themselves but for the good of the entire State.
 
Paul Lupo, CEO, St.LukesHealth.

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Care delivery is a vital piece of the puzzle

One of the biggest challenges for people in regional areas is the access to health care. It’s not so much that the services don’t exist, they’re just a long way away, or difficult to get to.

People on the North-West and West coasts of Tasmania know this better than most.

When it comes to accessing surgical procedures, more than one in three people who live in the northwest must travel to Launceston to get the service they need.

At this federal election, St.LukesHealth has lobbied politicians in an effort to help people access services closer to their home, or even in their own home. As a private health insurer – the largest on the North West Coast – we would love to be able to help more people reach outside of the acute hospital system and access the care they need in community-based settings.

But under current outdated regulations, private health insurers are only able to fund procedures when they are performed in an admitted hospital setting.

We need to be able to deliver new ways of care delivery which are not only more convenient for patients as well as more cost-effective. Private health insurance should be able to provide members with cover for procedures currently undertaken in a hospital setting outside of a traditional hospital, where clinically appropriate, by non-hospital health providers.  This would include services like wound care, intravenous infusions, rehabilitation, and other post-operative procedures that could be undertaken under the supervision of a general practitioner, or other health care providers in a community setting.

This would have the immediate effect of reducing inpatient demand at our public hospitals and focus on early intervention that addresses health issues before they become serious.

For the good of our community, where more than one in two Tasmanians are covered by health insurance,  governments need to ensure that private health insurance regulation provides insurers with the flexibility required to keep pace with modern care delivery settings, the changing health needs of our community and make it easier for people to access the care they need when they need it outside of hospital, which would in practice keep them healthier or reduce the length of a hospital stay.

Tasmania needs policies that will allow for genuine reform in the health sector.

Governments need to support a modern and dynamic health delivery approach that sees people provided with timely and appropriate care while keeping them out of hospital, not enshrining hospitals and hospital admission as the only gateway to care pathways.

Private health insurance reform is a critical piece of the health picture. Without a robust private health system, the public hospital system will continue to buckle and lurch from crisis to crisis.

Giving people more options to access the health care they need, close to where they live, will drive better health outcomes for Tasmanians, particularly in regional areas.

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Vision for health must transcend politics

It is no surprise that the issue of health care has again been prominent in the first half of the federal election campaign.

What is surprising, and disappointing, is the lack of policy commitments the major parties have shown thus far to enable genuine reform in the private health sector – reforms that would lay a platform for strengthening the entire health system, increasing access to care and services and ultimately boosting health outcomes for all Tasmanians.

The private health system plays a critical role in reducing demand and pressure in the public system.
The more people who can access care and treatment in the private system, the less pressure there is on Tasmania’s public hospitals. This means the public system is there for people who need it the most.

There are more Tasmanians with private health insurance than without. More than 275,000 Tasmanians, or 52 per cent of the population, have some level of private cover.

Unfortunately, the continuing COVID-19 pandemic has placed even more pressure on the public system. Elective surgery waiting lists are ballooning against a backdrop of surgery slowdowns, staff shortages and ward closures. In just the last week we have seen an entire medical ward at the Royal Hobart Hospital closed to admissions due to COVID-19. Combine those immediate and significant impacts with longer-term trends of an aging population and an increasing prevalence of chronic disease, and the pressure only looks set to increase into the future.

Governments need to implement reforms that support a modern and dynamic health delivery approach that sees people provided with timely and appropriate care while keeping them out of hospital, not enshrining hospitals and hospital admission as the only way to deliver specialised medical care.

Under current regulations, private health insurers are only able to fund procedures when they are performed in an admitted hospital setting.

Private health insurance should be able to fund procedures outside of a traditional hospital, where clinically appropriate, by non-hospital health providers.  Services like wound care, intravenous infusions, rehabilitation and other post-operative procedures could be undertaken in a community setting and appropriately funded by Private Health Insurance. This would enable privately insured members to access modern care delivery, in their preferred setting.
 
This would have the immediate effect of reducing inpatient demand in our hospitals and help decrease instances of bed block in hospitals.
 
Importantly, such a reform would allow fit-for-purpose patient care to be offered at a lower cost to consumers, with increased access, and a focus on early intervention that addresses health issues before they require hospital inpatient treatment.
 
St.LukesHealth members have already recognised the need for these type of policies. One of the strongest messages from a recent member survey was that improving health care in northern Tasmania goes well beyond providing acute hospital care. Instead, we need a major increase in health care system capacity, both in terms of an increased number of services as well as a significant improvement in those services already available, to meet the future needs of our north and north-west communities. 
 
A collaborative, well-functioning network of health care services that people can access close to their homes, families and communities, especially in regional settings, that afford high quality health care without the need for unnecessary hospital admissions is critical to achieving this.
 
The regulations applying to private health funds need to be reformed. The limitations that restrict private insurers from funding services outside of a hospital admission are in turn limiting the ability of the private system to relieve pressure from the public system.
 
It is in everyone’s interest to have a health system that is able to respond and provide the very best in health care when it is needed. No-one should have to endure hours or even days stuck in emergency departments, nor should anyone have to wait years on public hospital elective surgery waiting lists.
 
As we get older and sicker, and the system gets more and more stretched, governments need to act to allow the private system to help provide better health outcomes for all Tasmanians.
 
Health reforms aren’t easy. They take a government with resolve and preparedness to be bold, with the vision to implement changes for long-term benefits, not short-term political wins. Decisions around health care cannot be limited in scope to election cycles or simply increasing taxpayer funding without addressing ways to make the entire system work more effectively.
 
There is an opportunity right now for the next government to make fundamental changes that can underpin an improved health future for Tasmania. It is an unfortunate fact that our public system permanently struggles to cope with demand, and the state’s overall health will not improve unless changes are made to better support the public system.
 
Paul Lupo, Chief Executive Officer, St.LukesHealth

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Private health system is key in fixing the public hospital crisis

A compelling opportunity now exists to revolutionise Tasmania’s healthcare system, but it requires the entire network – including governments – to be brave, recognise that opportunity and to work together to bring it to reality.

It was shown to be possible during COVID when the entire Tasmanian healthcare network, both private and public in league with government, demonstrated the ability to work cohesively in the face of the most serious community health crisis faced in a generation.

As challenging as COVID was, there are other challenges which pose much greater long-term difficulties for the health system.

As a population, it is well documented that we are getting older. At the same time, we are getting sicker with increasing rates of chronic disease. The result of this is our public hospital system is constantly struggling to meet the health needs of the people who rely on it.

Public hospital waiting lists are ballooning to record levels. Emergency departments are full. Hospital beds are blocked to the point where even patients who require admission have to wait because there are simply no beds.

It isn’t always well understood, but the private health system plays a critical role in reducing demand and pressure in the public system.

Put simply, the more people who can access care and treatment in the private system and not rely entirely on the taxpayer-funded resources of the public system, the less pressure there is on Tasmania’s public hospitals. This means the public system is there for people who need it the most.

For context, more Tasmanians have private health insurance than do not. Just over 275,000 have some form of private health insurance, representing 52 per cent of the population. More than 130,000 of these live in the two southern electorates of Clark and Franklin, and many of them are on low to middle incomes.

The federal government understands the benefits of keeping people in private health care where they are not reliant on taxpayer funded beds, staff and resources for their care. So much so, that a means-tested private health insurance rebate is paid to help people on lower incomes access their health care outside of the public system.

The rebate commenced at 30 per cent. It has been eroded over the years to the point where in some cases, it is less than 25 per cent. While a five per cent erosion may not seem significant, it represents $23 million disappearing from the pockets of Tasmanian policy holders on low to middle incomes every single year.

This can force people back into a public system, where governments are funding 100 per cent of their care. That erosion has contributed to public hospitals being full and elective surgery waiting lists remaining stagnant.

The simplest and most cost-effective way the federal government can ease pressure on the public system is to restore the private health insurance rebate to 30 per cent and give people every incentive to access health care in the private system.

Tasmania needs policies that will allow for genuine reform in the health sector.

Governments need to support a modern and dynamic health delivery approach that sees people provided with timely and appropriate care while keeping them out of hospital, not enshrining hospitals and hospital admission as the only gateway to care pathways.

Under current outdated regulations, private health insurers are only able to fund procedures when they are performed in an admitted hospital setting.

Private health insurance should be able to provide cover for procedures currently undertaken in a hospital setting outside of a traditional hospital, where clinically appropriate, by non-hospital health providers.  Services like wound care, intravenous infusions, rehabilitation and other post-operative procedures could be undertaken under the supervision of a general practitioner, or other health care providers in a community setting.
 
This would have the immediate effect of reducing inpatient demand at our public hospitals.
 
Importantly, such a reform would allow fit-for-purpose patient care to be offered at a lower cost, with increased accessibility, and a focus on early intervention that addresses health issues before they become serious.

We need to ensure that private health insurance regulation provides insurers with the flexibility required to keep pace with modern care delivery settings, the changing health needs of our community and actually make it easier for people to access the care they need when they need it outside of hospital, which would in practice keep them healthier or reduce the length of a hospital stay.

Private health insurance reform is a critical piece of the health picture. Without a robust private health system, the public hospital system will continue to buckle and lurch from crisis to crisis.

A world-class healthcare system that meets the challenges of a regional state such as Tasmania is absolutely possible and can be used as a beacon for challenges faced by those living in regional Australia. But we must be willing to take a holistic approach and work together toward the ultimate goal of good community health that we all share.
 
Paul Lupo 
CEO of St.LukesHealth

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St.LukesHealth in support of Research Hub

Paul Lupo
CEO, St.LukesHealth


The federal government must commit funding to build a world-class medical research centre in Launceston. 
 
The Clifford Craig Foundation has been leading medical research in Tasmania for three decades, and its proposed research and innovation centre would ensure Launceston remains at the forefront of medical research along with capitalising on the many benefits that would bring. It would also enable an appropriately sized and funded research department for both the North and North West.   
 
“A world-class research and innovation centre would set a platform for the attraction, recruitment and retention of top line medical professionals, researchers, technicians, academics and students to the Launceston and North West areas,” says St.LukesHealth CEO Paul Lupo. “Aside from direct patient outcome benefits in the short and long term, it would also provide an immeasurable boost to the formation of health policy, particularly within a regional context, and build on Northern Tasmania’s reputation for learning and health excellence.”
 
A dedicated research and innovation centre with the resources to increase both the quantity and quality of medical research would: 

  • Put Launceston on the map with a renowned research and training precinct, making the region a top choice for clinicians in a competitive market.
  • Attract further research investment and employment to rural and regional Tasmania.
  • Allow clinicians to conduct truly local research, targeted to patient needs and leading to a real healthcare improvement in north and northwest Tasmania.

“The importance of having a cutting-edge research and innovation centre should not be underestimated when it comes to the recruitment of top line medical specialists. The Clifford Craig Health Research and Innovation Centre will be the critical third pillar, working in tandem with the expanded LGH masterplan and proposed Calvary co-located private hospital. The centre will ensure the best clinicians come to practice in these state-of-the-art facilities, enhancing the quality of regional healthcare as well as ensuring the best possible health policy development.” 
 

Dr Jerome Muir Wilson
Managing Director, Launceston Health Hub


A world-class research centre will also help draw more desperately-needed general practitioners to Tasmania’s north. Regional GPs are in high demand, and we’re competing with national and international markets to attract them. Leading GPs want to help not only the patient in front of them, but also the population at large through research opportunities. Clifford Craig’s proposed Health Research and Innovation Centre would be a major point of difference, setting us apart from other regional centres.

There is currently no dedicated GP research centre in Tasmania. However, most of the healthcare we receive doesn’t happen in hospital: 90% of Tasmanians will see their GP each year. We badly need Tasmanian-specific general practice research to help us better understand local health needs and improve the state’s health outcomes.

This is especially critical in terms of preventative healthcare: studies done in a Sydney institute don’t translate to a regional Tasmanian setting. We know early intervention and access are so important, but we don’t have the research capacity to know where to focus local preventative healthcare efforts. The Clifford Craig Health Research and Innovation Centre would be a gamechanger to this end, addressing health issues early and keeping more people from ever needing hospital treatment.

Tasmania already has a good track record on training GPs. We have a retention rate of around 80% for GPs who train in the state, with pass marks up around 90%, well and truly above the national 75% average. The Clifford Craig Health and Innovation Centre is the missing piece of the puzzle in attracting and retaining further GPs, providing research opportunities that would be valuable for the whole state.

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Rebate restoration will be a shot in the arm for public health

As the vote-vying continues in the lead up to the federal election, Tasmanians will no doubt hear politicians declare just how important healthcare is, and how committed they are to fixing burgeoning wait times.

They should bear in mind that about 10,000 of those Tasmanians are currently stuck on stagnant public hospital elective surgery waiting lists. Many of them will be living with pain. Many will be faced with a reduced quality of life as they continue to wait.

Those patients would be right to wonder why, despite so many promises from successive governments to fix the public health system in Tasmania. Elective surgery waiting lists continue to climb, and health outcomes are poorer compared with other states. This is only set to worsen as we face an aging population with increasingly complex health needs.

This election represents a golden opportunity for all parties to make a health policy decision that would not only drive down waiting lists, but also provide more timely access to health care for every single Tasmanian.

The policy is simple: restore the means-tested private health insurance rebate.

The rebate was initially introduced to cover 30 per cent of the cost of a private health policy. It puts private health within the means of more people, thereby freeing up space for others in the public system. This rebate has not kept step with increasing health service costs, meaning it now covers less than 25 per cent of the cost of a policy for low and middle-income earners.

Restoring the rebate to 30 per cent is the most effective way the Australian Government can help provide surgery and hospital access to all Tasmanians, not just those with private health insurance.

It isn’t well recognised, but Tasmania’s public hospital system relies on a healthy and robust private health system. For every person who can access private health care, more resources are available to treat people in the public system. Conversely, every person forced to leave their private health insurer becomes another person who the public system must find the room, staff and funding to care for. Restoring the rebate can stop it.

While a five per cent erosion of a means-tested rebate may not sound large, in pure dollar terms, it represents $23 million disappearing from the pockets of Tasmanian policy holders every single year.

The next Federal Government needs to step in during its first term to ensure people’s ability to take up and maintain private health cover – and stay out of the public system – is maximised. More private demand will also incentivise more investment into new private hospitals and clinics, increasing capacity further.

This has become more critical than ever as the state continues to battle the impacts of COVID-19, which are far from over.

Just last week the Royal Hobart Hospital was forced to again reduce elective surgery to help manage COVID-19 pressures. A few weeks ago, the pandemic paused elective surgery at every public hospital in the state.

Of the more than 10,000 Tasmanians parked on public hospital surgical waiting lists in January, more than 1,000 of these were classed as category one patients. If you are unlucky enough to be a less-urgent category three patient on a list at either the Launceston General Hospital or the North-West Regional Hospital, you will wait about a year for your surgery.

Tasmanians are rightly worried about the ability of the public system to provide the healthcare they need. The ongoing struggles of the public health system, exacerbated by COVID, has seen increased investment in private health insurance: more than one in two Tasmanians now hold a policy.

Governments must start seeing the health system as a single entity – not merely as a distinct and separate private and public system. It is a point in fact that two out of every three elective surgery procedures in Australia are done in the private system. The systems are critically linked; it is critical that people have every encouragement to remain in the private health system to provide a better access balance for the community.

Cost of living pressures are making this more difficult to achieve. Tasmanians are currently feeling the sting of rapidly increasing property and rental prices, and rising fuel prices both at the bowser and on shop shelves as producers pass on added costs to consumers. This looms as a difficult decision for Tasmanians to make in balancing the need for timely access to health care with other concerns in the family budget. The Federal Government can assist Tasmanians in not having to choose one over the other.

It is time for the Australian Government to act and restore the private health insurance rebate, for the good of every Tasmanian.

Paul Lupo is the CEO of St.LukesHealth – Tasmania’s leading not-for-profit health insurer.

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We're freezing our premium increases

A health insurer that supports members through the pandemic? Well, well, well!

We’re freezing premium increases until 1 July 2022.

St.LukesHealth is here to support members through COVID-19, not benefit from it.
 
Throughout the pandemic, we have looked for ways to help our members manage. We continually monitor our financial performance to sustainably and responsibly maximise returns to members. Over this time, we have continued to grow which allows us to positively impact the health of more people and continue improving service delivery to members in more efficient ways. In addition, we recognise that the pandemic has made it more difficult for some members to utilise the full value of their health insurance during 2021.
 
So, we’re giving back to members by freezing the current premiums until 1 July 2022.
 
We’re pleased to have been able to defer premium increases for the third year running, because we know this has a big impact. We have now supported members with more than $5.6 million in rate deferrals since the start of the pandemic.

Other ways St.LukesHealth is supporting members through COVID-19:

Helping you access healthcare: We made sure members could access the care they needed through 2021. We supported members with $108.8 million for hospital admissions, an 8.3% increase on 2020, and $40.7 million for extras, a 5.4% increase. St.LukesHealth continues to pay above the industry average in benefits for every member contribution dollar.
 
Making rapid antigen testing more accessible: Widespread testing is one of the most important measures for stemming the spread of COVID-19 and will become even more important as borders reopen. To help support our members with this cost, St.LukesHealth has introduced a one-off $20 benefit per eligible membership for the purchase of RAT kits, available to claim till the end of 2022. This additional benefit will not reduce any existing benefits on members’ current policies. 
 
Managing financial hardship: During the pandemic we have provided support to many members experiencing financial hardship, proactively reaching out to those who have been most severely impacted. We have a number of initiatives to support members who are doing it tough.  Please call 1300 651 988 to discuss an option that might be right for you.
 
We all have a vital role to play in limiting the spread of the virus. We encourage you to stay up-to-date with vaccination booster shots, get tested and isolate if you feel unwell, and remain kind and connected for your mental health. This is the best way we can protect those most vulnerable in our community, help reduce the strain on our health system, and show our thanks to our incredible health professionals.

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Healthcare network needs holistic plan

A compelling opportunity now exists to revolutionise Tasmania’s healthcare system, but it requires the entire network – including governments – to be brave, recognise that opportunity and to work together to bring it to reality.

This is not just ‘pie in the sky’ thinking.

It was shown to be possible during COVID when the entire Tasmanian healthcare network, both private and public in league with government, demonstrated the ability to work cohesively in the face of the most serious community health crisis faced in a generation.

Now, as we continue to deal with the virus, a vital further step towards revolutionising the healthcare system has been taken in the north of the state, with plans to develop a new co-located private hospital alongside the Launceston General Hospital – one which will provide complementary rather than competitive healthcare services.

Calvary Tasmania, which is developing the new facility, is incorporating input from key health stakeholders and northern health leaders, and collaborating with the LGH to widen the range of services they collectively provide the community. That decision represents an historic breakthrough in meaningful cooperation and is to be applauded.

Further investments for overnight and same-day facilities continue throughout Tasmania, with a new hospital project by Nexus in Hobart, a day hospital investment from Cura Day Hospitals in Launceston, and investments in gastroenterology and ophthalmic care in Devonport. These are all positive examples of private investment delivering better healthcare outcomes for Tasmanians.

The challenge now is to carry this progressive thinking forward by adopting a more collaborative approach right across Tasmania’s healthcare network.

The COVID experience and the Calvary decision demonstrate that partnership, built on a spirit of cooperation, is not just possible, it is achievable, albeit it has been elusive for too long. The cause of that dysfunction is the result of several factors – the joint involvement of federal and state governments in healthcare funding; the sheer size of the system itself and the challenges of operational management; the structural division of responsibilities which has led to silos; and an introspective culture that has largely failed to understand, let alone meet, community needs and expectations.

What is needed now is a collaborative and holistic approach to our state’s health system across both the private and public sectors, in primary and hospital care, led by government – both federal and state.
Governments can make things happen. They can be the drivers for change and better outcomes. However, they need to recognise, accept and embrace an idea, a concept, a vision – one which offers tangible benefits to the community as well as for the economy.

Just such a vision is now within reach.

St.LukesHealth believes with the will and commitment of governments, Tasmania has the opportunity to develop a world-class healthcare system, with the creation of regional medical hubs that provide the right services in the right settings. The co-location in Launceston of the proposed new Calvary hospital alongside the LGH is one such promising example of what is possible when we work together.

This will set a platform for attracting top line medical professionals, researchers, technicians, teachers and academics to Launceston, provided governments are willing to start the ball rolling by establishing some of the initial ancillary services and infrastructure needed. Once government funding starts, private investment will follow.

With this in mind, we urge the Tasmanian government, leaders of Tasmania’s healthcare networks, and members of the general public to join with St.LukesHealth in making this vision of a world-class health system an issue at the forthcoming federal election.

We need to look beyond using the historic problems of the healthcare system as a cause for complaint and outrage.  We have done that in the past, but still the problems persist. Instead, let’s raise the bar and challenge our political leaders to see beyond band-aid measures and electioneering gap-funding.  Let us demonstrate the opportunity to make a positive investment in a vision that is both achievable and worthwhile – starting with a regional healthcare hub that can become the envy of the nation and a magnet to all types of healthcare professionals from other states and overseas.

The social and economic dividends are enormous. 

It will deliver better health outcomes across Tasmania – a region whose population is generally older and less healthy than other parts of the nation.  That in itself will deliver a cost saving.

The overall economic impact will be ground-breaking, not just during the development phase, but with the subsequent migration to northern Tasmania of highly skilled healthcare professionals and with the inevitable flow of private investment.

And that should not be the end game, but merely the starting point.

This opportunity goes beyond political alliances, and as such, we should use the coming election to secure commitments from the major parties, as well as from individual candidates to take-up this vision and to bring it to fruition.  

A world-class healthcare system that meets the challenges of a regional state such as Tasmania is absolutely possible and can be used as a beacon for challenges faced by those living in regional Australia. But we must be willing to take a holistic approach and work together toward the ultimate goal of good community health that we all share.

Paul Lupo
CEO St.LukesHealth

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