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Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Page: 7125

Ms PLIBERSEK (SydneyMinister for Health) (18:05): I thank the shadow minister for his questions because I am very proud of this $325 million package for Tasmania. The Tasmanian health system has been in trouble for some time. They removed funding in their last budget and they continued that reduced funding in their most recent budget. That has had a serious impact on patients in Tasmania, particularly in the area of elective surgery. My Labor colleagues and the Independent member for Denison were very clear with me that they felt there was a role for the Commonwealth to play in the Tasmanian health system for these reasons.

Tasmania is a state which has had some budget problems recently. It is also a state that has an older than the national average population, and it has a faster ageing population than the national average. It also has a higher burden of chronic disease than the national average. You see more incidence of diabetes, for example, and obesity related illnesses. The indicators for those illnesses are also higher than the national average. You see more smoking, higher rates of alcohol consumption, greater rates of poverty and social exclusion, which are also linked to reduced health outcomes, and of course higher unemployment than in many other parts of Australia. The preconditions in the Tasmanian health system were ones that concerned me and the reduced funding from the Tasmanian government is, as I have said in the other chamber in the past, something that I have been very concerned about.

At the end of the day it is the welfare of Tasmanian patients that should concern all of us and this $325 million package is designed to improve the welfare and services available to Tasmanian patients. The package has a number of elements to it and the shadow minister has asked about a couple of them in particular. He has asked about the e-health funding. This funding is not specifically for the rollout of the personally controlled e-health record system in the way that he is suggesting. This is an opportunity to test in a closed system the way that we can better use personally controlled e-health records, so that we actually have in a state system the future functionality that we hope for in the national system. Some of the features of the personally controlled e-health record that will make it very valuable to clinicians over time include things like the ability for a range of different health professionals to see hospital discharge summaries and things like pathology tests and diagnostic imaging that have been conducted for a particular patient. Being able to roll out some of those advanced features of e-health in a system like Tasmania gives Tasmanian patients better improvements in their care because where you have more patients with chronic and complex conditions you have more health professionals seeing each patient. Having that integration in health records is much more important where there are more patients with chronic and complex health conditions. It also gives us a good learning opportunity as a nation to see what the future of e-health for the whole of Australia will look like.

The shadow minister also asked about a number of other elements of the package. There is a $31.2 million elective surgery blitz that will provide about 2,600 extra surgeries. There is $22 million to establish the walk-in clinics in Hobart and Launceston, and we will enter into negotiations with potential operators of those clinics. We are happy to do that in partnership with the Tasmanian government, if that is possible. We are yet to examine that.

Mr Dutton interjecting

Ms PLIBERSEK: No. There were claims by the Tasmanian Liberals that these are re-announcements. These are not re-announcements. This is $325 million of new funding that we will find for the benefits of the patients of Tasmania. We are also investing extra money through Tasmanian Medicare Locals to deal better with preventing and managing chronic diseases, including through team care arrangements. There is almost $75 million for better discharge from hospital and better palliative care in the community. (Time expired)