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How do health, climate and the environment rate at the Tasmanian election?

As Tasmanians head to the 23 March state election, which is predicted to lead to minority government, below we offer perspectives on diverse health issues, from the climate crisis, to healthcare priorities, and environmental health.

As Croakey reported earlier this week, concerns have been raised that while health has been one of the big issues during the election campaign, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the climate crisis and its implications for health and healthcare.


Climate health crisis unaddressed

Michelle Isles writes:

Rising sea temperatures and fires across Tasmania should be at the forefront of concerns for candidates in the Tasmanian election.

The lack of policy development and discussion around climate change indicates that Tasmanian voters are not being informed about the potential dangers for climate change and health in the future.

Tasmanians have a number of people living with the worst population health outcomes, which has implications for health care services in an era of climate disruption.

Tasmania has experienced an extremely dry February this year and the bushfires this summer raise questions around who will tackle the risks in the state’s Wilderness World Heritage Area, once fires spread across the state.

None of the major parties’ candidates appear to have addressed these questions for voters.

Currently extreme marine heat off Tasmania indicates that sea temperature anomalies are higher than at the Great Barrier Reef. The state’s salmon industry is under threat from rising sea temperatures as salmon need cold water to spawn. Tasmania’s giant kelp forests were once considered the state’s most accessible wilderness, but they’ve been all but wiped out by rising ocean temperatures.

Some of Tasmania’s biggest export industries will be severely affected by rising temperatures on land and sea.

These questions need to be addressed by candidates in the state’s election, as they are crucial to the future of all Tasmanians.

• Michelle Isles is CEO of the Climate and Health Alliance


Leadership lacking

Statement by Australian Medical Association Tasmania

With ambulances ramped, elective surgery being cancelled, and people unable to be appropriately supported with their health needs, it is unsurprising that health has featured as a top priority for political parties.

AMA State President Dr John Saul said the major parties had offered a mixed bag of political promises.

Both major parties earned a pass mark on the AMA Tasmania scorecard, but no one party showed the leadership required to truly fix the log jam in our public hospitals.

“Frankly, we are shocked at how all parties have failed to grasp the urgency of the problem.

“Tasmania’s healthcare system is in a state of crisis. We’re seeing unprecedented levels of ambulance ramping that can’t simply be “banned”, overcrowded emergency departments, blocked beds, and overwhelmed healthcare staff.

“Unblocking our hospitals is key to preventing ambulance ramping and elective surgery from being cancelled at the last minute. That means ensuring patients are in the right beds for the care they need and receiving their test and imaging results in a timely manner.

“We desperately need more pathology and medical imaging resources so patients can get their results faster. There are too many patients, some with cancer, having to wait too long to start their treatment because of the backlog in processing pathology tests and medical imaging.

“Only the Greens came some way to understanding the importance of funding in this space with a promise to address the issue at the Launceston General Hospital LGH, but not the Royal Hobart Hospital RHH where a large part of the problem lies.

“While it’s somewhat encouraging to see commitments from Liberal and Labor parties to open more Hospital-in-the-Home beds and partner with the Launceston Hub to open twenty beds in twelve months, more needs to be done.

“Right now, we have twenty to thirty patients at the RHH in acute care beds who need sub-acute specialist care beds or non-acute care beds while they wait for a NDIS package or aged care placement.

“While master plans offer a vision for the future, they must be translated into tangible action. The reality is we need the new sub-acute facility planned for St John’s Park, built now, not by 2050.”

Dr Saul added that not only do we need bricks and mortar, but for Tasmania’s healthcare system to keep up with state-of-the-art, cutting-edge healthcare delivery, we must invest in robotic surgery capacity.

“We were pleased that both major parties promised to deliver robotic surgery at the LGH, which will improve surgery options in the north and help attract and retain medical staff who want to work in a hospital with state-of-the-art equipment.

“Unfortunately, not one political party addressed our urgent plea for a dedicated Stroke Unit at the North West Regional Hospital, which is crucial for faster stroke intervention and saving lives.”

In terms of general practice, Dr Saul said AMA Tasmania was supportive of all parties looking at how they can incentivise doctors to consider general practice in rural areas through initiatives such as wiping HECs’ debt or offering scholarships.

“A big threat to general practice has been the possible imposition of payroll tax when it has not had to be paid before because of the working arrangement of doctors as contractors.

“We were very pleased Labor promised to legislate against the imposition of payroll tax on general practice and, while not as strong, the Liberals have promised not to change the status quo.”

Dr Saul noted that despite strong medical advice, political parties still need to address the concerning expansion of pharmacists’ prescribing authority, risking patient safety and quality of care.

“AMA Tasmania urgently advocates for the withdrawal from the UTI pilot and opposes independent prescribing by pharmacists.

“Instead, we called for a commitment to collaborative care between GPs and pharmacists, ensuring patients receive comprehensive and safe treatment, supported by appropriate funding mechanisms at the local level. All parties failed on this commitment.”

Dr Saul said all parties also failed to grasp the problems with the new complaints system, leaving doctors and other healthcare professionals feeling unsupported and at risk in the workplace.

“It’s disheartening that no political party has committed to the fundamental right of innocent until proven guilty. Doctors facing complaints deserve understanding, support, and fairness, not vilification.

“Urgent reassessment and collaborative solutions are needed to protect the well-being of doctors and patients.”

Dr Saul said AMA Tasmania was also surprised not to see one political party address the mental health challenges exacerbated by climate change by promising to support ongoing programs like the Tasmanian Youth Climate Leaders Program and Curious Climate Schools.

“Our young people are facing unprecedented levels of climate-related anxiety. Programs like the Tasmanian Youth Climate Leaders Program provide vital support and empowerment for our future leaders. These initiatives must receive ongoing funding and support to address the mental health impacts of climate change.”

Dr Saul urged whoever forms government after Saturday’s polls to prioritise health.

“As voters, we must hold our elected representatives accountable and advocate for policies that promote a healthier future for all Tasmanians.

“The health of our community is not negotiable.

“We urge political leaders to move beyond rhetoric and commit to concrete, evidence-based solutions that prioritise the urgent needs of Tasmanians.”


Bob Brown Foundation election scorecard

The Bob Brown Foundation has rated the major parties on four enironmental concerns – all of which are important for public health – and at this link is a scorecard for all candidates.


Other election scorecards and health election analysis are in previous Croakey coverage of the 2024 election in lutruwita/Tasmania and also see related content at #TasVotesHealth2024