Tasmanian State Election 20th March 2010
Study and Compare - 2010
From the President: The forthcoming Tasmanian State election is uppermost in our minds at the moment and AMA Tasmania welcomes the emphasis that government and the opposition parties have placed on health related issues. The extra money and resources pledged to improve service delivery are a step in the right direction but it is unclear what each of the parties has planned to deal with the pachyderm on the premises that is the chronic and habitual underfunding of the public hospital system. The AMA has previously called for sufficient resources to be made available to allow public hospitals to run at an average bed occupancy rate of 85%. Without this, overcrowded emergency departments, bed access block and long waiting times for surgery will continue to blight the effective provision of healthcare in Tasmania.
It is important to appreciate that Tasmanians have a life expectancy which is two years less on average than their mainland counterparts. The reason for this largely relates to socio-economic factors including the fact that 24% of the population smoke as compared to 17% elsewhere in the country. Tasmanians also have less access to health care on average with about $100 less a head spent annually on their health than the average Australian.
Part of the problem is that the medical workforce in Tasmania is ageing, as is the rest of the population and the State desperately needs more doctors both now and in the future. Fortunately, the number of medical students in training has increased dramatically in the last few years. Over the next three years the total number of Australian medical graduates will increase by 41% from 2442 in 2009 to 3437 in 2012. The number of medical students graduating from UTAS is set to increase from 98 in 2009 to 115 in 2012. Alas only 65 places were available for these graduates in 2009 and at present the same number will be available in 2013. Unlike the other states, Tasmania has yet to guarantee all of these final year students the necessary positions in Tasmanian public hospitals to complete their compulsory internship without which they cannot register as doctors. Unless corrective action is taken, the result of this will be that the Tasmanian public will not have the benefit of the increased number of doctors that the ramped up training schemes were designed to deliver.
The AMA will be calling upon the Tasmanian government and opposition parties to guarantee that sufficient internships will be made available to enable all Tasmanian medical graduates to complete their preregistration training.
Finally, in 2010 it should not be necessary to insist that every Tasmanian has access to clean, uncontaminated drinking water. This issue has been much in the news recently with significant anxieties expressed in the St Helens area. The AMA is of the unwavering opinion that doctors have every right, indeed a moral and civic duty to speak out on issues where they have concerns for public safety. Once such concerns have been clearly articulated, the appropriate government instrumentality must take immediate responsibility for the issue and be fully resourced to undertake a speedy, transparent and thorough investigation to determine the veracity of the situation then take whatever action is necessary. There are clear cut standards for drinking water in Australia and it is imperative that every householder in the State can turn on the tap with absolute confidence.
Dr Chris Middleton.