Jeremy Rockliff,Minister for Health
The Health Dashboard update, released today, shows that while there are some encouraging improvements, we are continuing to see demand increase across our health system.
Emergency Departments in Tasmanian hospitals are experiencing increasing pressure as the number of people presenting for care continues to rise. In August 2021, there were 14,889 presentations to Emergency Departments across the State, which represents an increase of nearly 1,400 presentations compared to the same time last year. This does present challenges in treating patients within recommended timeframes.
While we have seen areas of improvement in our Emergency Departments across the North and North-West, the Royal Hobart Hospital continues to be under immense pressure with growing levels of emergency presentations and higher levels of complexity.
This is exactly why we announced the Emergency Department will be ‘supersized’ to ensure the number of beds and treatment points in the expanded Department can support staff to respond to the demand being experienced.
As part of stage 2 of the RHH redevelopment, we will accelerate the opening of 25 new Emergency Department beds by the end of 2022, and deliver an expanded footprint capable of meeting emergency demand until 2035.
The Government has also invested heavily to increase the number of beds available to hospitals, with more than 50 additional permanent hospital beds to be opened by the end of the year to meet increased demand and to support the Government’s elective surgery commitments.
The latest figures for August show some encouraging improvements to the elective surgery waiting list, reducing from a record high of 12,265 in January 2021, to 10,850 in August 2021, a reduction in over 1,400 patients, which is an encouraging sign that the initiatives implemented are having effect.
The number of patients waiting for outpatient appointments has also reduced, with 55,875 waiting for their first appointment in August compared to 56,109 in July 2021. This is a reduction of over 230 patients.
We have made some inroads, but there is still a way to go. That’s why we have committed funding of up to $2 million for a start-up program to establish an Outpatient Transformation Program that will include a Statewide Outpatient Plan for Tasmania, to complement the Statewide Elective Surgery Four-Year Plan 2021-25.
Like the Elective Surgery Plan, the Outpatient Plan will provide a clear, focused roadmap for the delivery of sustainable outpatient services. It will be co-designed in collaboration with clinicians, patients, and other key stakeholders and will include service improvements that will transform the way outpatient services are delivered to patients and clients in Tasmania.
Statewide, demand for Ambulance services remained high, with attendance at 7,506 incidents in August 2021, with a median response time of 14.5 minutes, which is below the high of 15 minutes in March 2021. We are continuing to roll out Secondary Triage, which sees trained paramedics and nurses providing clinical advice to Triple Zero callers, including connecting them to other health services where appropriate.
The August Dashboard data reflects the heavy impact COVID-19 has had on oral health services last year when there was a period of emergency only services. We are now seeing increasing activity through Oral Health Services Tasmania and in August alone, there was an additional 500 appointments delivered for children compared to July.
However, we recognise there is still a long way to go and our $5 million commitment will create an additional 20,000 dental appointments statewide. We are actively recruiting to ensure we can deliver these, with an additional eight dental officers recruited in recent weeks.