November 19, 2019 05:35:39
Sarah Courtney walked into the health portfolio at the end of June promising to approach the job with fresh eyes.
- Health Minister Sarah Courtney is facing her greatest challenge in staring down 147 junior doctors at the Royal Hobart Hospital demanding to be heard
- Everyone agrees funding to the health system isn’t the only issue — but it is part of it
- Ms Courtney must be more transparent about her work in the portfolio
But most stakeholders agree the situation is yet to improve under her leadership.
Ms Courtney is facing down her greatest challenge yet in responding to 147 junior doctors from the Royal Hobart Hospital who have taken the rare step of penning a 10-page letter to the Australian Medical Association, various Tasmanian Health Service bureaucrats and Health Department head Kathrine Morgan-Wicks.
The doctors say they are overworked and worried about their health and that of their patients — and they want to be heard, including among their five demands a request for a face-to-face meeting with hospital leadership.
“So contemptible is the relationship between the Royal Hobart and its most junior clinicians that many are leaving the institution which trained them, without a clear plan to return,” the letter claimed.
Ms Courtney said yesterday she’s ready to listen to the doctors-in-training, but wouldn’t be drawn on whether she was working to secure more funding or staff for the facility.
“There is not going to be one single silver bullet that addresses the increased demand within health,” she said.
“There’s a suite of measures we can look at, and part of that is funding, and the Government has clearly shown its commitment with regards to funding.”
Blame for the issues at the RHH doesn’t lay solely at the feet of Ms Courtney.
The issue with Labor’s strategy of toppling Ms Courtney’s predecessor Michael Ferguson was always going to be that the health budget would remain the same.
The Government was forced to inject an extra $105 million into the health system this time last year just to meet existing demand.
The 2019-20 budget topped that figure only by about $11 million.
The issues aren’t just about money, either.
Former president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Simon Judkins, yesterday hinted at the need for an examination of management at the RHH when pressed on the ongoing issues at the hospital.
A series of reports have similarly pointed to internal cultural issues as stymying improvements at the RHH.
When she was appointed Health Minister, Ms Courtney spent a night in each of the state’s major hospitals, hinted at pro-choice views and announced addressing ambulance ramping as among her priorities.
But having failed to front cameras for about one month before yesterday’s press conference, it’s unclear what progress Ms Courtney has actually made on these issues.
She said yesterday she was meeting with RHH leadership to discuss the doctors’ concerns, but her media team did not respond to repeated questions about the outcome of those discussions.
The doctors’ letter lashed the lack of transparency within the Tasmanian Health Service. It would be in everybody’s interest that Ms Courtney’s achievements — and failures — were made clearer.
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