Tasmania’s longstanding reliance on fly-in and fly-out medical specialists is impacting the health system’s COVID-19 preparedness and its ability to carry out everyday services.
Meanwhile, alternative arrangements to assist Tasmanians impacted by cancelled elective surgeries in Victoria remain up in the air.
On Wednesday State Health Commander Kathrine Morgan-Wicks outlined the strain the Tasmanian Health Service was experiencing in relation to resource and surge capacity – particularly in the North-West.
While confident in the state’s COVID-19 escalation protocols, Ms Morgan-Wicks acknowledged resourcing levels had been significantly impacted by the Victorian outbreak and categorised Tasmania’s capacity as being at an “amber” level.
“We’ve had a longstanding reliance in terms of fly-in, fly-out specialist resources,” she said.
“Not just to cover leave, but to provide particular types of specialist treatment that we don’t currently provide in Tasmania.
“We are currently working through that, but I do note the strain we are feeling.”
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Ms Morgan-Wicks said Tasmania was also being impacted by the cancellation of elective surgeries, with the Royal Hobart Hospital picking up additional surgeries that would have traditionally been referred to Victoria.
Health Minister Sarah Courtney had previously said the government was working with South Australia and NSW on alternative arrangements for Tasmanians impacted by the cancellation of category 1 surgeries.
Interstate travel is often required for Tasmanians in need of complex procedures, such as brain and heart surgeries.
On Wednesday Ms Courtney said the THS was continuing to work with interstate providers to ensure Tasmanians could access safe interstate services where necessary.
“Local clinicians will work with patients on their individual care arrangements,” she said.
Meanwhile, a State Control spokesperson confirmed the process for Tasmanians seeking a medical exemption for interstate travel would remain the same.
On Tuesday Premier Peter Gutwein announced applications for essential worker exemptions would now undergo additional scrutiny involving the Department of State Growth.
A State Growth spokesperson said applications would now be forwarded to them after they have been reviewed and processed by DPIPWE.
“It’s not the role of the State Controller nor the Department of State Growth to seek alternative labour arrangements – the review is another layer of critical scrutiny on the justification provided by the applicant,” they said.
“If the State Growth review team is satisfied with the evidence provided then we will support it for approval and return it to the State Control Centre.”
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