Spreading the word in Tasmania
Local Champion, Melita Griffin, campaigned for the appointment of an IBD nurse at the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH).
With a small population of just over 530,000 in Tasmania, it means word gets around easily. The quick spread of the word can sometimes be used to an advantage.
Soon after my appointment as a Local Champion in Tasmania for Crohn’s & Colitis Australia I had been contacted by various professionals working at the RHH about the insufficient services provided by the Tasmanian Government to the Gastroenterology and Liver Clinic.
Due to the significant outpatient waiting list and the lack of human resources in the clinic, including no IBD nurse, a gastroenterologist resigned in October 2019. More than 2,000 patients were on the waiting list in October 2019, with close to 400 patients categorised as urgent. The Gastroenterology and Liver Clinic has the second highest waiting list in the southern region of Tasmania.
Furthermore, the clinic was at risk of losing its Royal Australian College of Physicians accreditation, which could result in the loss of a registrar.
It was made clear to me that the clinic urgently needed the appointment of an IBD nurse to assist with meeting the needs of the outpatients, as well as to ensure Tasmania was providing best practice care in line with the recommendations of the National Government’s IBD Action Plan.
Various business cases had been submitted to the government on numerous occasions requesting an IBD nurse and these had repeatedly been rejected. As another business case was being prepared, I wrote to the Tasmanian Branch of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), Shadow Minister for Health and the Minister for Health.
Within days I was welcomed to meet with CEO of the Tasmanian Branch of the AMA and the Shadow Minister for Health, Sarah Lovell MLC, but received no response from the Minister for Health.
By then, the end of the Parliament sitting year was drawing close and another business case was sitting with the Department of Health, with no response.
Labor Leader, Rebecca White MP, commenced the last sitting day in Parliament for 2019 questioning the Government’s Health Minister as to why the business case for an IBD nurse was not being addressed. The Health Minister appeared to have no knowledge of the situation.
Shadow Health Minister, Sarah Lovell and I addressed media later that day on Thursday 28 November. By mid-morning the next day on Friday 29 November I was advised that the clinic’s business case for an IBD nurse was approved.
Recruitment for this critical nurse commenced last month, with the hope an IBD nurse will begin work at the clinic in March this year.
The appointment of an IBD nurse at the RHH is a positive step forward in the care of IBD patients in Tasmania. Whilst we celebrate this achievement, we also recognise the need to keep a dialogue open with the government in relation to the total human resources allocated to outpatients in the southern region.
I really look forward to doing what I can to help advocate for all in Tasmanian who are living with IBD.