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R.I.P. Royal Hobart Public Hospital

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PLS Resource Development T o : Political editor 1

For Immediate Release 15 February 1999


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

Royal Hobart Hospital has been virtually closed for surgical services since November 1998 and has had its surgical beds reduced to 16 from 50.

The concerns are not only for those patients who are being turned away but also for those trainee surgeons who cannot progress because o f a hospital with no elective patients.

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

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

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

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

Dr Wertheimer said ,

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

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

sufficient finance to restore the hospital to its former glory.”

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

Mr STEPHEN MILGATE Ph: 02 9567 5595


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F or M ore Inform ation Contact: Dr MICHAEL WERTHEIMER Ph: 03 6223 1377