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Uncertainty for Health Sector after Minister’s weekend announcement

ON SATURDAY (July 26) Tasmania’s Health Minister Michael Ferguson announced a “package for system-wide reform” titled One State, One Health System; Better Health Outcomes. See here.

Mr Ferguson’s announcement formalised rumors that were circulating in recent weeks that the government was poised to combine the three current Tasmanian Health Organisations (THOs) into a single entity, Tasmanian Health Service, based in Launceston. You can read the email sent to THO and Departmental staff below.

Email to DHHS

The Minister also announced a “comprehensive organisational review of the DHHS” that includes both the Department’s Health division and the areas contained in Human Services.

It’s unclear at this stage what these moves mean for the jobs of our THO and DHHS Members but the Minister is flagging some $21M in savings as a result of the proposed changes, so it appears there’ll be significant attrition.

Neither CPSU nor our Members across our wide coverage in the health system were consulted before these announcements and, as such, many questions can’t yet be answered. Like other recent major initiatives from the government, media representatives passed on this announcement to your CPSU rather than from the Department or the Minister’s Office. The deliberate refusal to engage with workers and their unions is extremely disappointing and displays a fundamental disregard for those people delivering and coordinating services to the Tasmanian community on behalf of the Tasmanian Government.

Your CPSU received a lot of emails and calls over the weekend from Members who’re seriously concerned about what the reform package means. Much of this contact was from Members working in the THO-South, the health division of the Department and from Human Services who were concerned they were being roped in to another series of reforms not necessarily with the services they deliver as the primary driving factor.

It’s fair to say there was a significant level of concern resulting from the Minister’s announcements over the weekend”, CPSU Acting Secretary Mat Johnston said. “In a system already struggling to cope with increasing demand and working in the shadow of vacancy control, a proposed wage freeze overriding our Awards and Agreements and moves by the government to kill off workers’ ability to negotiate for wages into the future, there’s an understandable level of uncertainty from our Members.

“This Government needs to address the way it engages with its workforce”, Mr Johnston said. “Tasmanians who work to deliver services to their fellow community members deserve at least the respect to be asked for their input on how best to improve outcomes. It’s simply not good enough to engage with the media first, shoot an email out second and then leave a vacuum will everyone waits for Green and White Papers”.

Your CPSU has written to Mr Ferguson to request further information on his intentions and to remind him of his legal obligations to adequately consult with his workforce. You can read the letter below.

Letter to Michael Ferguson

These are significant reforms and require comprehensive discussion with workers across the state and at every level of the system. Failure to adequately engage with people working across our diverse health system will only increase the chance that this proposed package of reforms (amounting to some statements of intent and glossy brochures at this stage) will be another costly distraction for people working day in and day out for better health outcomes for Tasmanians.

Your CPSU welcomes reform to better tailor the delivery of our public sector health services to the Tasmanian community and strongly encourages the Minister to make the effort to set aside easy assumptions and talk to those people who know the system best – people like you. In the meantime we’d like to hear from you with questions, concerns and opinions in the lead up to dialogue with the Minister. To contribute please email cpsu@tas.cpsu.com.au.

We will keep Members informed as we source further and better information.

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