Labor is rallying the troops for a fight to restore 24/7 service to the Mersey Community Hospital emergency department.
The operational hours were cut back to 8am to 6pm this week after the Tasmanian Health Service was unable to find enough locum staff from interstate.
The state government blamed the staff shortage predominately on “quarantine requirements and travel restrictions” associated with COVID-19 but Labor argued there were problems well before the pandemic.
Braddon MHA Anita Dow said attracting locums and specialist medical staff had been “an ongoing issue on the Coast for many many years”.
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“It’s been ongoing for a long while and the government has had six years to address it,” she said.
“What COVID has done is just highlight that they haven’t really been working on a workforce plan for the region.”
Labor has since launched a petition calling on the government to reinstate the 24/7 emergency department at the Mersey Community Hospital.
But Minister for Health Sarah Courtney said “now was not the time for politics” and the Australian Medical Association supported the government’s view that there were not enough staff members to safely operate the emergency department 24/7.
“I’m committed to having that emergency department back open 24 hours but we can only do it when we have the appropriate medical support to be able to do that,” she said.
“We’re currently recruiting but I’m not going to do anything that places the patients or the staff at that site at risk.
“I encourage Labor to stop playing politics with this and be part of the solution instead of creating fear in the community at a time when where people are feeling vulnerable.”
Ms Courtney said the recruitment of medical professionals to the Coast was “a long term challenge” and the government had “made some great gains in recent years”.
“We’ll obviously look to be able to bring locums back into that site and I’ve also asked the department to look at what innovative ways we can also look at recruitment,” she said.
Those requiring emergency care after 6pm will now have to travel to the North West Regional Hospital or the Launceston General Hospital.
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