Prime Minister rejects Independent Andrew Wilkie’s call for more Tasmanian health funding

Health workers and nurses in a hospital

The Prime Minister has ruled out extending a federal funding boost for Tasmania’s health system, despite an MP’s insistence that the state’s population is “less healthy” and so needs more help.

In 2012 the Gillard government committed $325 million over four years to help improve the state’s health care.

Denison Independent Andrew Wilkie used Question Time to push for the funding be continued, but Malcolm Turnbull said current spending plans were enough.

“My Government continues to support Tasmania through a range of health initiatives,” he said.

“We’ve recently announced an additional $148.5 million for the Mersey Hospital operations and an additional $20.7 million for acute and sub-acute projects give certainty to Tasmania while it works through the reform of the health system.

“This is in addition to the public hospital funding.”

Mr Wilkie said Tasmania’s health system remained “chronically underfunded”.

“By a number of indicators Tasmania does not deliver health services as efficiently as in other jurisdictions in other states,” he said.

“It’s relatively expensive to deliver health care in Tasmania, plus we have a greater burden on our public health system because we are a less healthy population than in other states.

“So I think there is a legitimate campaign to be made for special consideration for Tasmania; the [federal] government agreed to it in 2012.”

Mr Wilkie said State Government mismanagement of health funds had played a part in ongoing issues with the system.

“It is the fault of a succession of State Governments over many years that our population is less healthy than the mainland,” he said.

“It is the responsibility of many governments over many years that our health system is not as efficient as elsewhere, for example we still have this dreadful inefficiency of four main hospitals in a state of only half a million people.”

The State Government is not convinced the funding should continue and said it was working with the Commonwealth to implement reforms.

In a statement, Health Minister Michael Ferguson accused Mr Wilkie of being disingenuous.

“The Tasmanian Government is working to rebuild the health system, through the One Health System reforms, so that Tasmanians can receive the health services they need and deserve,” he said.

“In this year’s budget we spent $230 million more on Health and Human Services than in the last Labor-Green budget, and we made a record $100 million investment in frontline services.”

“The $325 million funding package which Mr Wilkie refers to was a fixed-term package to stem the bleeding in the health system after the former Labor-Green government’s savage cuts.”

In July, the Government merged the state’s three regional health organisations as part of a $21 million cost saving measure.

It also commenced major shake-ups of the state’s four major hospitals, to centralise services.

Tasmania’s Mersey Hospital is the only federally funded hospital in Australia.