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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Labor rejects new hospital [01mar06]

The Mercury: Labor rejects new hospital [01mar06]

THE State Government says building a new Royal Hobart Hospital is too expensive -- but it refuses to release its review into a greenfield site.

Health and Human Services Minister David Llewellyn said yesterday the report would not be ready until mid-year -- but pre-empted it by saying a new centre would cost $500 million.

His comments came as medical groups said the Royal was being destroyed by politicians' fear of backlash in marginal electorates.

"It is a massive waste of money to propose a new site," Mr Llewellyn said.

"A report is being prepared but the consultation I have had already makes it clear the best plan is the one we are pursuing.

"We are not going to take the axe to health services in the North, the North-West or anywhere else in the state."

Also yesterday:

The Greens' plan for a new Royal envisaged building to begin in three to five years.

The Liberals didn't rule it out and called for the Government to release its study.

GPs said waiting times at Royal specialist clinics would get even worse with rising private health bills.
Mr Llewellyn said the Government had injected an extra $450 million.

But a national Productivity Commission report last month said Tasmania spent close to the least per capita on public hospitals.

Australian Medical Association science and public policy chair Haydn Walters called on the Government to release the Royal report for debate before the March 18 election.

"The Royal Hobart Hospital must not be allowed to fester for the next four years," Dr Walters said.

"If you spend more than you need to for purely political reasons, the end result will be a run-down hospital which cannot provide tertiary-level services for all Tasmania.

"If it's spread thinly, everything ultimately will fall over. There is no real advantage for people in the North-West.

"None of the political parties are taking this seriously enough -- they're all trying to cop out for votes in marginal constituencies."

A health department adviser told The Mercury to speak with AMA North-West representative, vascular surgeon Philip Lamont, at Latrobe.

Dr Lamont said the local AMA supported the Government's North-West hospital over two campuses and said the Royal had to face its dwindling status.

The Greens pledged to begin the process of finding and developing a new site in southern Tasmania, with $500,000 for planning and $100,000 for consultation.

"The Lennon Labor Government acknowledges the current site is too small, crowded and outdated," Greens health spokesman Tim Morris said.

"It has ruled out setting aside any money now or in the future for a new hospital. With health the burning issue at this poll, that's simply unacceptable."

Liberal Royal spokesman Will Hodgman said the Liberals would consider a new hospital but would look at all options and wanted to see government findings.

"We won't be making any rash promises ... but we won't rule it out either," Mr Hodgman said.

Northern suburbs GP Graeme Alexander said waiting lists for specialist clinics at the Royal were hidden.

"I've rung 12 GPs and we do everything we can not to send our patients there, so all the figures are flattering beyond belief," Dr Alexander said.

He said parochialism was being fostered by the Government.

"If the politics which runs throughout the health department was taken out, the medical profession could easily deliver quality health care for all Tasmanians at far less cost," Dr Alexander said.

He said the hospital was so past its use-by date doctors couldn't get onto a computer.

"I can email through patients' records but they can't read the email," Dr Alexander said.


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