Media Releases

Rebecca White MP | Labor Member for Lyons

  • Treasurer keeping truth hidden from Tasmanians despite contempt threat
  • Health Minister responsible for beds crisis at Royal and Mersey funding fail
  • Hodgman overseeing crises but lacks the will to provide solutions
The Hodgman Liberal Government returns to the State Parliament this week with crises across numerous fronts but no genuine effort to find solutions.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said dishonesty, deception and disappointment had now been firmly established as hallmarks of Premier Will Hodgman’s government.
“The Premier, with the Treasurer, has been deeply deceptive in his effort to withhold a document outlining his government’s strategy to sell the Tamar Valley Power Station as Tasmania entered an energy crisis,” Ms White said.
“He cannot be allowed to keep claiming a letter between two of his Ministers about the sale of the power station is Cabinet in Confidence when it is not.
“The Health Minister has refused to listen to those who know best – the doctors and nurses at the coalface – and that has resulted in a beds crisis at the Royal Hobart Hospital which is now so serious and dangerous it needs to be examined before a Parliamentary Inquiry.
“Michael Ferguson has failed to lobby his colleagues in Canberra to get a deal for the Mersey which has rightly angered medical staff and the community.
“The child protection system remains in crisis and continues to fail on Jacquie Petrusma’s watch.
“On top of each of these crises, Mr Hodgman’s government cares so little about every day Tasmanian workers that it did not even provide a submission to Fair Work Australia to help save their penalty rates – and it continues to fail by not calling out the Turnbull Government.
“The government in all of its deception and dishonesty needs to be called out and Labor will continue to hold Mr Hodgman and his Ministers to account.”
  • Shane Broad elected to replace Bryan Green   
  • Braddon will have a strong Labor voice in the lower house
  • Dr Broad will play a big role in the Labor team
Labor Leader Rebecca White has congratulated Labor’s Shane Broad on his victory in the Braddon recount.
“Shane Broad will be a terrific replacement for Bryan Green in Braddon,” Ms White said.
“It’s great that the people of Braddon will have a strong Labor voice representing them in the lower house.
“We are very much looking forward to welcoming Shane into the Labor team and it’s a sitting week in Parliament so he’ll be straight into the action.
“Shane brings a wealth of skills to politics after a distinguished working life in agriculture.
“He’s an intelligent, hard working person who’ll have an important role to play as Labor prepares for the next election.
“I’d also like to pass on my best wishes to Brenton Best.
“Brenton was a Labor member of Parliament for 18 years and has always been passionate for the people of Braddon. I wish him all the best for the future.”
  • Minister re-announces beds that already exist as deceit continues
  • Launceston General Hospital beds “opened” today already in use
  • Minister continues to mislead Tasmanians and badly let down medical staff
Habitually dishonest Health Minister Michael Ferguson has yet again tried to fool Tasmanians into believing he has a solution to the state’s emergency department crisis by re-announcing already open beds.
Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White said Mr Ferguson had today attempted to hoodwink northern Tasmanian residents by “announcing” the opening of the 12-bed Ward 4D at the Launceston General Hospital – despite it already being opened.
“Mr Ferguson is pretending the beds he has announced at the LGH are new when in fact he re-opened them in June last year,” Ms White said.
“How many times is this deeply deceptive Health Minister going to re-announce the opening of this ward when he knows those beds are already available?
“These are not new beds at all – they are existing beds and Mr Ferguson’s trickery today will do nothing to ease the crisis in the LGH emergency department.
“He knows that and the staff who are doing their upmost in very, very difficult circumstances know that.
“Mr Ferguson needs to explain how this will ease pressure on the emergency department which has reached an unprecedented level under his mismanagement.
“The simple fact is that an important review of access to emergency care at both the RHH and LGH has been sitting on Michael Ferguson’s desk for the past six months and at the same time clinicians, nurses and other staff were telling him our EDs were in crisis.
“The report Minister Ferguson tried to keep secret reveals that in August 2016 staff felt “maintaining quality of care” was difficult due to a lack of inpatient beds leading to delays in the ED.
“This was at the time Ward 4D had already been opened at the LGH.
“For the Minister to pretend his re-announcement today of 12 beds in Ward 4D will be enough to ease pressure on the ED disregards concerns of staff on the frontline.
“The only reason Mr Ferguson is attempting to swindle Tasmanians into thinking he suddenly has a solution for the ED crisis is that the report he tried to keep hidden has been released through Right To Information – and they will see right through it.”
  • Minister’s claims around “new” beds show new level of dishonesty
  • Ferguson tries to act only after his dishonesty exposed by RTI
  • Minister interested only in misleading Tasmanians and ignoring real crisis
Health Minister Michael Ferguson has taken the Hodgman Government’s entrenched dishonesty to a new low today in his deceptive and misleading “announcement” of new beds to relieve pressure on Tasmanian emergency departments.
Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White said the hospital beds Mr Ferguson had announced after months of doing nothing around the crisis in the state’s EDs had either been promised previously but not delivered by the government, closed by the government, announced earlier but not put into use or proposed by the Labor Opposition.
“The two intensive care beds Mr Ferguson has announced today are the same beds the Liberals promised at the 2014 election – and failed to deliver,” Ms White said.
“The 10 beds he has announced at the Roy Fagen Centre are the same beds Mr Ferguson shut when he closed the Jasmine Unit.
“The seven beds he has announced at the New Norfolk District Hospital are beds that were announced as part of his Patients First package in April last year but have subsequently not been used.
“The eight beds he has announced at the Hobart Private Hospital are the same beds Labor asked the Minister to investigate purchasing in October 2016 but he did nothing about.
“Let’s be clear – these are not new beds at all.
“These beds barely make up for the ones that the RHH lost when the demolition of B Block began.
“If the Minister thinks he can re-announce the same strategies from April last year and pretend they are new he has sunk to a desperate low.
“To add insult to injury, there have been no solutions funded or proposed for the north of the state in the Minister’s announcement today, leaving staff at the LGH wondering whether recommendations from the Report will be implemented or not.
“Mr Ferguson has had the Review of Access to Emergency Care at the LGH and RHH report on his desk since last August.
“He has known for the past six months that what staff were telling him at the frontline – that our EDs are in crisis – is true because those same claims are contained in this report.
“To say he has consulted with staff is offensive. He has not. They hadn’t seen the report until it was released under right to information laws yesterday.
“He has not listened to staff who have been speaking out for many, many months.
“His dishonesty and the fact that he is more than willing to mislead Tasmanians is disgraceful.”
  • New report reveals not enough inpatient beds to deal with patient surges
  • Emergency Department overcrowding due to access block remains the number one issue at both RHH and LGH
  • Staff doing best under still increasing pressure
  • Ferguson held on to report for six months
Emergency Departments at both the Royal Hobart and Launceston General Hospitals remain in crisis almost a year after the Hodgman Government announced its policy to tackle poor access to care and a lack of beds.
Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White said the government’s Review of Access to Emergency Care report released overnight showed little had improved and the genuine and legitimate concerns of medical staff at the frontline had been ignored by the Health Minister.
“The fact remains that poor access to inpatient beds and on-going delays in emergency departments are making it very difficult for clinicians and nurses and other frontline staff to maintain a high quality of care,” Ms White said.
“The staff at all of our major hospitals are proud of the work they carry out in very demanding circumstances but they are saddled with a Health Minister who is either incapable of hearing their concerns or doesn’t want to know.
“Emergency Department overcrowding due to access block remains the number one issue at both the RHH and LGH.
“For many, many months now doctors and nurses have been telling Michael Ferguson that our EDs are at crisis point and they are dealing with patients in circumstances which are not only unacceptable, they are dangerous.
“Staff are doing their best but are under increasing pressure from EDs continually being crowded and a lack of inpatient beds.
“There are also legitimate concerns that the poor access to care is having an impact on the ability of our hospitals to recruit staff.
“Importantly, Mr Ferguson also needs to tell Tasmanians why this report was not made public despite it being prepared last August.
”This Government has been forced again through the Right to Information process to disclose information they would rather keep secret.”
  • Liberals’ poor leadership dividing salmon industry and regional communities
  • Labor will continue to consult to sustainably grow industry and create jobs
  • Rockliff only creating more and more uncertainty after three years of dithering 
The Liberals have had three years to develop a plan for the salmon industry but they have failed to show any leadership, Shadow Primary Industries Minister Rebecca White said.
“The Government’s hands off approach has led to a situation where communities and the industry are becoming divided about the future of salmon farming,” Ms White said.
“Today’s announcement of a plan to develop a plan sometime in the future will only cause more confusion and uncertainty.
“It begs the question: what has Jeremy Rockliff been doing for three years?
“There are no details about what the process is for the development of the plan or who will head it up.
“There are no details about how it will be resourced or over what timeframe it will have to do its work.
“There are no details about how stakeholders will be engaged or who will be consulted.
“At a time when the industry and community is in desperate need of leadership, the Government has yet again gone to water.
“In contrast, Labor has been consulting with the community and the industry about ways to sustainably grow the salmon industry and create jobs.
“Labor supports the aquaculture industry and the full time jobs it supports, particularly in regional Tasmania.
“It is clear that moving forward there needs to be improvement to make the approval of new leases more transparent, more consultative and adaptable to future advances in science and marine farming technology.
“We need to make sure that the community can continue to have confidence in the regulatory regime and approval processes.
“I will have more to say about Labor’s policy for the future expansion of the aquaculture industry in the near future.”
  • Health Minister badly lets hospital construction workers down with his ignorance
  • Government has been warned for months on accuracy of asbestos register
  • Fresh audits on sites need to be launched to prevent future exposure
Dangerously ill-informed Health Minister Michael Ferguson needs to immediately stop construction work in key sections of his disastrous Royal Hobart Hospital redevelopment and launch fresh worksite audits after it was revealed workers had potentially been exposed to asbestos.
Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White said confirmation today that up to 14 workers have potentially been exposed to asbestos in an area of E-Block underlined Mr Ferguson’s dangerous habit of refusing to take advice or listen to the concerns of frontline workers.
“Our first thoughts and concerns are for those workers who have potentially been exposed to hazardous material and the Minister needs to be doing everything he can to ensure they are given support,” Ms White said.
“But the simple fact is that for months now, unions representing workers at the site have been telling the government that the asbestos register is not accurate.
“By refusing to listen – just as he has with staff in the emergency department who have been warning him that the bed shortage has reached a crisis stage – he has caused a critical breakdown in the system and is putting workers at risk.
“To prevent against future exposures each site should have a fresh audit before work commences.
“Labor presented a petition to the Parliament last year calling for this to happen but the Government did not listen.
“Additionally Mr Ferguson needs to immediately explain how testing procedures which he claimed initially had returned negative results could have been so badly botched.
“Minister Ferguson also needs to explain why he continues to blame everyone but himself for the continuing mistakes.
“Why is it that every time there is a mishap at the site, the Minister forces others to keep Tasmanians informed while he is nowhere to be seen?”
  • Royal Hobart and Launceston General under unprecedented pressure
  • Outpatient waiting lists continue to spiral
  • No action from government despite on-going pleas from frontline staff
Tasmania’s hospitals are under enormous and growing strain as the Hodgman Government continues to ignore health professionals whose pleas to the Health Minister to increase resources fall on deaf ears.
Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White said the situation at both the Royal Hobart and Launceston General Hospitals has reached a true crisis point.
“Under Health Minister Michael Ferguson, Tasmanians have never seen their hospitals under such unprecedented – and unnecessary – pressure,” Ms White said.
“Tasmanians have never seen a situation where frontline medical staff are taking the serious step of speaking out so they can be heard because Minister Ferguson refuses to listen.
“Medical staff and patients have been badly let down by Mr Ferguson who has ignored many months of warning that the Royal Hobart Hospital was headed toward a chronic bed shortage.
“Both the Royal and the Launceston General Hospital are now seriously under-resourced and despite what is clear to everyone who works in the system and to patients, Mr Ferguson continues to ignore them.
“Clinicians are speaking up on a daily basis to warn the Government about serious problems within the hospital system.
“More and more staff members at the LGH are actively warning the government about the enormous pressure the hospital is under including today when they have slammed the lack of services available for Tasmanians living with diabetes.
“The Hodgman Government made enormous promises to the Tasmanian people about improving our hospital system but things are going backwards.”
Ms White said information from the government’s latest health statistics update reveals the outpatient waiting list continues to grow both at the LGH and the RHH.
At the LGH between October 2015 and September 2016 the outpatient waiting list grew by 1489 patients to 11,266 – an increase of 15 per cent over the 12 month period.
At the RHH between October 2015 and September 2016, the outpatient waiting list grew by 876 patients to 15,022, a six per cent increase.
RHH waiting times for outpatients continue to increase.  Across all categories there has been a 39-day increase over the past 12 months taking the waiting time up to 424 days
“Mr Ferguson needs to act once and for all,” Ms White said.
“It’s not good enough to say things will change in the coming weeks. Staff and patients by now fully understand that is typical of Mr Ferguson’s all-talk no-action style and they require action today.”
  • Minister had ample warning on chronic bed shortage
  • Patients now being treated in waiting areas
  • Ferguson has no solution to intolerable situation for staff and patients
Royal Hobart Hospital medical staff and patients have yet again been badly let down by Health Minister Michael Ferguson who has ignored months of warnings about an impending chronic bed shortage.
Shadow Health and Preventative Care Minister Rebecca White said despite having months of warning that the demolition of the hospital’s B Block would place staff in real danger of being unable to cope with demand, Mr Ferguson had failed to put a plan in place and the hospital was now chronically under-resourced.
“The situation at the Royal Hobart Hospital – with patients being interviewed in waiting areas because staff have been left unable to cope with demand – is just unacceptable,” Ms White said.
“For many, many months now Mr Ferguson has been warned that once demolition began, beds would be reduced but he has failed to heed those warnings.
“Nurses and doctors and other frontline staff are now extremely concerned that they have been left unable to provide patients with the care they need.
“They are upset that they are not being listened to as doctors continue to tell the Minister that even during a relatively quiet period through January the hospital has been unable to cope.
“This Minister has left them in an untenable situation.
“The message to Michael Ferguson could not be clearer – the hospital is in crisis because of his mismanagement.
“Once and for all he needs to start listening to those people on the frontline who have been badly let down and now need to be provided with the resources they need to treat the patients in their care.
“Today he has announced a vague promise to address the situation in coming weeks.
“That’s not good enough. The Minister needs to actually meet with hospital staff today, listen to them and act.”
  • Tasmanian hospitals under extreme pressure
  • Michael Ferguson only interested in patting himself on the back
  • Staff must be listened to
Health Minister Michael Ferguson needs to start working with staff in Tasmania’s health system, rather than bragging about himself.
Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White said the Minister is in denial about the challenges facing our hospitals.
“There’s such a big difference between Michael Ferguson’s spin and the real story in Tasmania’s hospitals,” Ms White said.
“Staff are under extreme pressure, dealing with everything from bed blockages to broken air conditioners.
“But the Minister continues to pat himself on the back for the job he’s doing without acknowledging any of the problems.
“Patients waiting too long in our hospitals know the Minister’s version of the story isn’t true.”
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