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Healthcare network needs holistic plan

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