TWO New Norfolk hospitals were the subject of discussion at Budget Estimates hearings in Hobart earlier this month. The New Norfolk District Hospital and the Millbrook Rise Centre were brought up in Legislative Council Estimates Committee A on June 7.
Health Minister Michael Ferguson said it was proposed to make better use of regional health facilities, focusing on the New Norfolk District Hospital in particular. "I assure the committee and the community that we are committed to all of our rural sites," Mr Ferguson said. "If anything, the Government, in my view, is that we need to be looking for opportunities to better utilise our rural sites. New Norfolk, in particular, holds that prospect very much before us."
Tasmanian Health Service acting chief operating officer Craig Watson said much work had been done around how to better utilise rural hospitals to assist the major acute hospitals. "The minister has referred to the New Norfolk Hospital and would have referenced that because we are probably looking at making that a bit of an earlier adopter or exemplar of some of the works we are trying to do in relation to better utilising the facilities," Mr Watson said.
"New Norfolk has advantages in terms of its proximity, if you like, to where the Royal [Hobart Hospital] is, the number of beds and the skills of the people we have there, the attractiveness of it as a facility," Mr Watson said. The THS had already been engaging with New Norfolk's general practitioners about better ways to utilise the local hospital.
Lessons learned at New Norfolk would then be rolled out to other facilities.
"This will be addressing a combination of factors of having the right relationships with the GPs and their willingness to take patients under their care ... making sure we have the appropriate staffing within the hospitals, the nursing staffing, but also the access to allied health services, to support patients who are transitioned from our acute setting from our major hospitals into that facility, as well as having the right information available to actually encourage patients to be willing and agreeable to do that.
Mr Watson said it was also important for doctors in the major hospitals to understand that it was safe for patients to move from their care to the rural facilities. "Sometimes there is even some tendency to hang on to a patient a bit long within the acute hospital because sometimes they are not as aware of the care that is available within the rural facility and that the patient can be ready to go," Mr Watson said.
"So that is a variety of different pieces of work that we are undertaking and trialling different elements at different facilities, but we are looking at New Norfolk certainly as, as I said, an earlier adopter of that. As I said, the ability to market it to patients because it is an attractive facility, it has nice sized spaces within there, it has a nice outlook."
Later on the same day, Derwent MLC Craig Farrell asked whether there were any plans or ideas for the Millbrook Rise Centre on the outskirts of New Norfolk, and whether the services there could be expanded or improved. Mr Ferguson offered to write to Mr Farrell about the government's vision for the mental health facility there. He said the government had recently purchased the property from its private owner.
"I would be pleased to write to you and offer you further briefing if you would like it, because I know it is in your patch in your seat of Derwent. But, yes, we have made that purchase on behalf of the Crown and we certainly are maintaining and indeed increasing our efforts to provide appropriate care and more options for people to continue to live happy lives away from hospital," Mr Ferguson said.