A dedicated mother and baby service should be available across Tasmania to ensure every child gets the best start in life, says the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).
A perfect storm of factors, including an aging population, epidemic of chronic disease, and acute workforce shortages, is putting increasing pressure on Tasmania’s hospitals and wider health system, prompting the RACGP to make its first Budget submission to the state government.
RACGP Tasmania Chair Dr Toby Gardner said general practice can reduce pressure on the state’s hospitals.
“Tasmania’s population is older and has higher rates of chronic disease, as well as being dispersed across many rural and remote communities. This makes delivering healthcare challenging at the best of times let alone during a health workforce shortage such as we are experiencing,” Dr Gardner said.
“With these challenges, there’s never been a more important time for the Tasmanian Government to step in and invest in general practice care to help Tasmanians stay healthy and out of hospital.
“We welcomed the government’s move to establish a mother and baby unit in the public health system after the unit at St Helen’s Private Hospital closed and left our state with a dire shortage of acute care beds. However, more needs to be done to improve access to this essential care and ensure all Tasmanian children get the best start in life.
“The proposals in our budget submission will do just that – giving all Tasmanians access to a dedicated mother and baby service, as well as getting more GPs training and working in the communities that need them and improving access to life-saving vaccinations.
The RACGP’s budget proposals will:
Establish a dedicated mother and baby service for all Tasmania to ensure children get the best start in life,
Attract more GPs to train, work and live in regional and rural Tasmania through subsidised training – GPs who train in rural areas are more likely to stay there,
Improve access to life-saving vaccinations including free meningococcal B vaccines for eligible children and young people and free influenza vaccines for people not covered by the National Immunisation Program.
The RACGP Tasmania Chair said: “Tasmania is the only state that doesn’t have a community-based mother and baby service. Yet as many as one-in-five Tasmanian mums experience perinatal depression and anxiety, and tragically 21% of maternal suicides are due to severe depression. Funding a mother and baby service for all Tasmania would make a huge difference – early intervention is key to saving lives and giving kids the best start in life.
“We’re also calling for our government to help get more GPs into our rural and remote communities by subsidising their training through our Fellowship Support Program. The research shows GPs who train in rural areas are more likely to choose to live there, so this measure will mean more doctors for our communities in the immediate future, and long-term
“The government can also help reduce Tasmanians risk of serious infection from influenza and meningococcal B by expanding access the life-saving vaccinations. The modelling suggests influenza costs our economy around $34 million a year, while every meningococcal infection prevented saves the health system $10 million over a person’s lifetime. So, this measure would save the health budget substantially in the long-term.
“As RACGP Tasmania’s new Chair, I look forward to working with the Tasmanian Government to address the challenges our state faces and ensure everyone can access the care they need to live a long and healthy life.”
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is the peak representative organisation for general practice, the backbone of Australia’s health system. We set the standards for general practice, facilitate lifelong learning for GPs, connect the general practice community, and advocate for better health and wellbeing for all Australians.