Mr ROCKLIFF (Question) - My question is to the Minister for Health. Minister, can you confirm that you plan to cut the number of intensive care and high dependency unit beds at the Royal Hobart Hospital? If this is the case, can you please outline to the House how many ICU and HDU beds will be slashed?
Ms O'BYRNE - In the interests of World Peace Day, I thank the member opposite for his kind words last night at the AMA dinner that we both attended. In the interests of peace, I will acknowledge that there were amicable discussions at that event.
I have made no secret of the fact that we need to find significant savings within Health. We have announced around $70 million worth of savings, but we still have significant amounts to go. That means that within each of our operation units within all of our hospitals and agencies we are looking at every single thing we do -
Mr Rockliff - So the answer is yes, you are cutting?
Ms O'BYRNE - If I could continue - in the interests of peace, Mr Acting Speaker, I am trying to be as calm as possible.
Mr Rockliff - It is a simple question - yes or no and how many?
Mr ACTING SPEAKER - The member has asked the question so please give the minister a chance to answer without interjection.
Ms O'BYRNE - We are looking at a whole host of things across every single thing we do. That means discussions are taking place around every single service we provide and every engagement we have. I realise that that means there is concern in the workplace as things are looked at but that does not mean necessarily that all those areas will in fact be impacted by a savings strategy. We have to legitimately look at everything we do.
Mr Rockliff - So that's a yes, then. How many beds is the question? You haven't answered the question.
Ms O'BYRNE - Mr Rockliff continues to interject.
Mr ACTING SPEAKER - Do you have short-term memory loss, Mr Rockliff? We have just had a conversation about giving the minister a chance to answer the question.
Mr Rockliff - She hasn't answered the question, Mr Acting Speaker.
Mr ACTING SPEAKER - And she has not sat down either.
Ms O'BYRNE - I am not sure that Mr Rockliff would, hand on heart, say that he thinks we should not look at every operation of our business. I would be surprised if that is what he is suggesting. We are looking at every operation of our business and that means that there will be -
Mr Rockliff - I will never advocate cutting ICU beds at the Royal Hobart Hospital.
- options to look at every single thing we provide. For instance, we had the Opposition running around saying we were going to close the Nell Williams Unit. Of course we had discussions about the Nell Williams Unit; that unit provides an excellent, award-winning service. It allows for patients who present in Emergency who have dementia or mental health issues to be in an environment that causes them less stress. It means that the machines and the noise are hidden behind walls. We have approximately 30 per cent occupancy in that unit and we also have approximately 30 per cent in our short-stay unit. What we are looking at is whether or not the short-stay unit can use some of the beds that are not being used in the Nell Williams Unit. Anyone else would say that is a sensible way of approaching the demand that is needed and it also preserves the
excellent role that the Nell Williams Unit offers.
Mr ROCKLIFF - Point of order, Mr Acting Speaker. The minister has had plenty of time to answer a very simple question: is she cutting beds and by how many?
Mr STURGES - A frivolous point of order - kick him out!
Mr ACTING SPEAKER - Mr Sturges, I will not kick him out but I will advise him that if he is not satisfied with the answer he is welcome to try for a supplementary question when the answer is concluded.
Opposition members interjecting.
Ms O'BYRNE - I have not finished my answer yet. I am trying to be as peaceful as possible.
Mr ACTING SPEAKER - You are doing well.
- We will be fully outlining the rest of the savings we are making. The reason we are taking time to do that is that we are assessing every single thing we do to ensure that we understand the implications of those decisions. There is no decision to announce today because we are still working through those issues. Mr Rockliff needs to understand that if we wish to survive not only our budget challenges but under national health reform a new framework for how health will be costed and paid for, we are, on average, some $600 more expensive per separation in Tasmania than the national average. Some of those things are to do with the regional and dispersed nature of our community, but we need to look at the costs of every single service and remove any cost that does not need to be there. That means that we will look at everything, and when there are
announcements to be made rest assured I will take responsibility for announcing them.