Media Releases

Rebecca White MP | Labor Member for Lyons

The Minister for Health, Michael Ferguson, has given an insight into the blame game going on in the Liberal Party over the crisis in child protection.

During an unedifying contribution to the motion of no confidence in Jacquie Petrusma this afternoon, Mr Ferguson said someone else was to blame.

Mr Ferguson said someone had let the Minister down and Ms Petrusma would have been within her rights to lay the blame at someone else’s feet.

Shadow Minister for Human Services, Rebecca White, said the Government was not taking the crisis seriously.

“Who does Mr Ferguson have in mind to take the fall?”, Ms White said.

“It is patently clear that the witch hunt and blame game in the Liberal Government is well and truly under way.

“This makes an absolute farce of the Minister’s claims that she has taken responsibility for the crisis.

“It shows the Liberals have no concept of Ministerial Responsibility.

“Labor believes that Ms Petrusma has no one to blame but herself for the crisis in child protection that saw 151 cases of potential abuse and neglect ignored.

“That is why we have no confidence in the Minister.”

Human Service Minister Jacquie Petrusma is refusing to say whether she met her department in the three weeks before the crisis in child protection became public.

“This leaves a huge question mark over Ms Petrusma’s handling of her portfolio and raises serious concerns over whether the Minister has the confidence of the department,” Ms White said.

“Why is Ms Petrusma continuing to dodge such a crucial question over whether she met with her department?

“It is inconceivable that if the department met with Ms Petrusma they would not tell her of the child protection crisis.

“It is standard practice for Ministers to receive regular weekly updates from departmental heads to be briefed on emerging issues.

“It is unprecedented that the department would brief unions before actually telling the Minister.

“We know that the Minister’s office was aware of the crisis last Thursday, if not earlier, yet Ms Petrusma is still maintaining she didn’t know until Monday.

“Ministerial accountability is at the heart of this issue and Ms Petrusma is ultimately responsible for this mess.”

Future of the Mersey Community Hospital has again been thrust under the spotlight tonight  following revelations of a leaked Federal Government Cabinet minute.

“The Liberal Government needs to explain why the Mersey was included on the Cabinet meeting agenda,” Ms White said.

“Why would the Mersey be on the agenda when the North-West Coast has been assured the Commonwealth will continue funding the hospital?

“The Cabinet leak raises suspicion over whether the funding deal has been ratified and if the Liberals will honour their commitment to Mersey.

The Cabinet leak follows the tabling of a petition signed by 5621 people in State Parliament today expressing concern over the future of the hospital.

“It seems people on the North-West Coast have every right to be concerned.

“Tony Abbott must come clean on whether there is now a question mark over the future funding.”

  

Human Services Jacquie Petrusma must immediately explain how and why she was kept in the dark over a crisis in child protection.

Shadow Human Services Minister Rebecca White said the Minister’s answers during Question Time were alarming.

“How is it possible that the Minister was only informed of the situation in child protection yesterday?,” Ms White said.

“We know the Department has been aware of the situation for more than three weeks.

  

“The Minister conceded this morning that both the unions and her own office were briefed on the matter last week.

“It beggars belief that the Minister was kept in the dark until yesterday.

“Minister Petrusma must immediately explain why she was the last to know.

“The Minister has confirmed that 62 of the ignored notifications have been deemed serious enough to warrant a full investigation.

“It’s completely unacceptable that this many serious cases were allowed to go unchecked, some for more than 300 days.

“This is an unprecedented breakdown of Tasmania’s child protection system and it is unbelievable that it took three weeks for the Minister and the Premier to take action."

The child protection system is in crisis with the alarming revelation that more than 200 notifications made in the North West were not assessed.

Shadow Human Services Minister Rebecca White said it’s an enormous failure on the Government’s watch.

“The Minister must immediately explain why more than 200 child protection cases were ignored,” Ms White said.

“When a notification is made to child protection it needs to be assessed as a matter of priority.

“When more than 200 notifications have not been followed up, the consequences for those children could be terrible.

“One notification was left without assessment for more than 300 days.  

“A large number of the notifications were for children under three years of age and many were made as unborn baby alerts.

“This is extremely concerning and could prove disastrous for those children.

“Labor has continually been raising concerns with Minister Jacquie Petrusma about the inadequate resourcing of the child protection system.

“We also asked the Minister to explain why fewer investigations were happening when the number of notifications hadn’t dropped. 

“On each occasion the Minister has given an assurance that all notifications are assessed.

“The discovery of 200 notifications that have not been assessed shows we were right is raising concerns about the figures because the Minister’s hollow assurance simply does not reveal the truth.”

The waiting time to see a gastroenterologist in the public health system in the south of the state is unacceptably long.

Lois Sheridan has been on the waiting list as an urgent patient waiting to get an appointment at the gastroenterology clinic since the 3rd of September 2014.

On the 11th June Ms Sheridan rang again and was informed that while a time frame could not be given for when an appointment might be arranged, there were 488 people in front of her on the list.

“Imagine my shock when hearing this. If and only if they took 2 new patients each week I would still be waiting in four and a half years to receive treatment,” Ms Sheridan said

Tasmanian ambulance paramedics are being stretched to their limit with overtime demands increasing.

Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White said the current demands on workers are unfair.

“Ambulance paramedics are being asked to work an unprecedented amount of overtime shifts,” Ms White said.

“It’s not a good result for staff or patients.

A Right to Information document obtained by Labor shows that ICU nursing staff working at the Royal Hobart Hospital are performing hundreds of hours of overtime every month.

Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White said the new figures highlight how much pressure the hospital system is under.

“If you compare figures from April last year to the same period this year, there is an increase in overtime of more than 40 per cent,” Ms White said.

For close to 12 months the Minister for Health has promised that the white paper on health reform would provide answers to improve Tasmania’s health system.
 
Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White said the white paper uncovers it will be another four months before there are any details around how services will change and it could be much longer before any of the changes are implemented.
 
“It has also been confirmed that efficiencies will first need to be found in the health system before any of the reforms can be funded as there is no new money to support the implementation of service changes,” Ms White said.

Health Minister Michael Ferguson must repair his relationship with senior clinicians or risk jeopardising reforms to the health sector.
 
Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White said the Minister's relationship with senior doctors in the hospital system seems to have deteriorated further.
 
"A cloud hangs over Michael Ferguson's health reform while he's at odds with senior people in our health system," Ms White said.
 
"First the Minister was heavily criticised for the make-up of his governing council, now doctors are publicly admonishing him which indicates a serious relationship breakdown.
 
"There's pressure on Michael Ferguson to repair relationships within health or reform is at risk of failing before it has begun."
 
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