The Labor Party has announced plans for a new private hospital adjacent to the Launceston General Hospital (LGH) if it forms a majority government at the March state election.
Labor leader Rebecca White said expressions of interest for a private provider would be advertised within the first six months of a White Labor government.
“We’ve listened to the experts, we’ve had a number of meetings in the north of the state and spoken with professional bodies such as the AMA who have been calling for governments to finally commit to seeing this realised,” she said.
“We understand that this is now becoming quite a priority and we’ve seen why it’s necessary when you look at the loss of skilled staff here in the north of the state recently.”
Ms White said they would commit $250,000 to produce a new masterplan to create a Launceston health precinct.
“We can deliver all of the services the north needs in one location, it provides a better environment to attract and recruit staff and keep them here,” she said.
“We anticipate the construction of a private hospital co-located with the LGH could be around a $200-million project.
“When you consider not just the building works but the civil construction works that would be necessary, it would of course inject a lot of money into the local economy.
“It would create many jobs in the construction phase and that would be a huge building project here in Launceston.”
Government claims process already underway
In a statement, State Health Minister Michael Ferguson said they had received a proposal to co-locate the LGH with private hospitals.
The Calvary Health Care wants to build a new hospital replacing its two existing campuses.
“Of course we are open to any proposal which will deliver better health outcomes for Tasmanians,” he said.
“Unlike Labor, we will not scrap a process already underway that was started in good faith, to do so could put at risk a significant proposal already on the table.”
Minister Ferguson accused Labor of “making up policy on the run”.
“With two policies in two days straight off the back of newspaper front pages, this is classic Labor making up policy on the run,” he said.
“The fact is, Labor has an appalling track record of delivering on health in Launceston, they closed a whole ward of the LGH, put hospital beds into storage, and axed the hospital in the home program.”
Doctors welcome private plan
The state’s doctors have welcomed the Labor plan for a health precinct around the LGH.
State president of the AMA Stuart Day said “this model has been successful in many other centres”.
“State of the art hospital facilities are essential in meeting the challenge of recruiting specialists and health professionals to regional areas,” Dr Day said.
“Having access to the doctors and health professionals can only improve the health outcomes for patients in the region.”
A Productivity Commission report into public and private hospitals in 2009 found co-location arrangements allow for the shared use of infrastructure and facilitate teaching and research.
The commission noted that in co-located establishments medical staff can work across both sectors and there is an exchange of spill-over benefits.
Health policy analyst Martyn Goddard said the Labor Party needed to provide more detail about what it was going to do for public patients.
“I don’t have any great problem with what they’re proposing, but it’s no where near enough,” he said.
“This state has the oldest, sickest, poorest population in the country.
“We’re not going to treat those people in private hospitals through private health insurance.
“We need a lot more space for public patients particularly in Launceston.”