Premier Peter Gutwein has suggested the Labor Opposition helped a group of 22 doctors at the Launceston General Hospital write a scathing letter to the Tasmanian Health Service in which they said patients were dying unnecessarily.
The letter, written by registrars in the LGH’s emergency department, has shone a light on the dysfunction inside the hospital, with clinicians saying their workplace is unsafe due to unacceptable levels of bed block.
They said a patient had recently died in the waiting room, which they believed was because he wasn’t in a more highly monitored part of the hospital.
During Question Time in the House of Assembly yesterday, Labor pressed the government on the letter.
As Health Minister Sarah Courtney was responding to a question from Opposition Leader Rebecca White, the Premier interjected, directing a comment across the chamber.
“Did you guys help them write the letter?” he said.
Mr Gutwein stood by his comments when Labor questioned him on them, saying the Opposition had attempted to “run with a ‘gotcha’ moment” by quoting from the letter in Parliament on Tuesday when it hadn’t been addressed to Ms Courtney and she hadn’t had a chance to read it.
“I would say to health professionals in the state: we want to work with you,” he said. “We are not interested, though, in silly ‘gotcha’ moments like the Opposition ran with yesterday.”
“We will work through the issues that are being raised.”
But Opposition Leader Rebecca White was strident in her denial that Labor had been involved in the writing of the letter and accused the Premier of making an “outrageous slur” against senior health professionals.
“They had given a letter to their superiors,” she said. “Labor had been provided a copy of that letter.”
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“I’m assuming that’s because the doctors were so concerned about this matter that they wanted the Opposition party to know and they wanted us to raise it in the Parliament so that it was taken seriously, so the government was held accountable for the failings in Tasmania’s health system, for the problems we’re seeing every single day in the emergency department.”
In a statement issued yesterday afternoon, Tasmanian Health Service executive director of operations North and North West Eric Daniels said the LGH took the views of its staff seriously.
“We … acknowledge that, as in all health care settings, particularly in emergency medicine, surges and increases in demand can occur,” he said.
Did you guys help them write the letter?
Premier Peter Gutwein to Labor members
“The LGH has been taking action to improve patient flow and ensure high levels of patient care.
“The LGH is committed to improving patient outcomes, and providing every possible support to our hardworking and dedicated staff. The hospital remains focused on measures to improve service delivery and improve patient flow, even with the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Mr Daniels said that since an access solutions meeting was held last year, the LGH was looking to utilise more district hospitals to help with treating older Tasmanians with chronic and complex conditions who might not require acute hospital care.
One of the doctors who signed the letter told The Examiner that neither he nor the other 21 signatories even knew what Mr Daniels looked like. He has been in his current role for more than four years.
“The previous CEOs or executive directors … you would know who they are, they would talk to you, they’d come around throughout the day,” he said.
Mr Daniels yesterday said he was meeting with the LGH registrars to discuss their concerns about the hospital.
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