White backs call for more nurses

MORE than 3000 Derwent Valley residents have signed a petition to establish nurse practitioners at the New Norfolk District Hospital in the hope it will relieve pressure on the Royal Hobart Hospital and local GPs.

Labor has accused the Government of rejecting the call, but the Government says the door is still open for nurse practitioners to be appointed, but they want more stakeholder consultation.

Visiting New Norfolk last week, Labor Leader Rebecca White said nurse practitioners could provide after-hours and weekend health care.

“The Gutwein Government and Health Minister Jeremy Rockliff have once again rejected calls from the Derwent Valley community to expand services at the New Norfolk hospital,’’ Ms White said.
“Tasmanians living in regional parts of the state are regularly facing long wait times to access GPs or long drives to access health services in the city.
“The pressure on our emergency departments and ambulance paramedics could be eased if the Gutwein Government was willing to make further investments in regional health care close to where people live.
“Nurse practitioners can act as the first response for patients who present to local hospitals for minor injuries or for parents who want their children to receive care for a fever and who shouldn’t be forced to travel to the city just to be examined.’’

The petition, organised by community member Bill Dermody attracted 3317 signatures and was presented to Parliament by Ms White.

Responding on behalf of the Government, Lyons Liberal MP Guy Barnett said: “Clinical services planning will include demographic analysis to identify the current and future service needs of the New Norfolk community.
“We acknowledge the advocacy from the community for consideration of new models of care in the New Norfolk District Hospital.
“There will be opportunities for staff, consumers and other key stakeholders to participate in the consultation process looking at regional clinical service provision.
“We acknowledge some people are finding it difficult to make an appointment with a GP.

Unfortunately, there are regions where recruitment is especially challenging, and these recruitment challenges are being experienced around the country in rural and regional areas.’’

When the Gazette asked the Government specifically if it had said “no” to appointing nurse practitioners to the NNDH, a spokesperson said no.

Mr Barnett listed initiatives which the Government supported including:
• A GP after-hours support initiative that helps increase access and complements the $1 million Hospital Avoidance co-investment fund previously announced to match, dollar for dollar, capital upgrades to allow for improved after hours care;
• A fully funded Community Rapid Response Service that can take referrals from New Norfolk GPs to provide at-home interventions for patients with acute conditions who are at risk of otherwise presenting to the ED. The CRRS model includes a Nurse Practitioner;
• Ambulance Tasmania has also recently established a 24/7 service at New Norfolk following the recruitment of two new paramedics; and
• The Tasmanian Government also provides funding to HealthDirect, which is a 24/7 service providing health information, advice and referral to all Australians.