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Tasmanian government sets sights on health

Emma Breheny
30 April 2016

The Tasmanian government is determined to improve health outcomes for residents, embarking on a five-year strategic plan called Healthy Tasmania. Consultations on development of the plan were held earlier this year.

In February, the APA provided comment on the Healthy Tasmania Five Year Strategic Plan during the state government’s call for submissions. The submission was based on feedback from Tasmanian members and encouraged the Tasmanian government to use the plan as an opportunity to invest wisely in future population health gains.

The Healthy Tasmania initiative is part of the current government’s pledge to make Tasmania the country’s healthiest population by 2025, overcoming the state’s high prevalence of chronic disease and risk factors. The community consultation draft paper asked for responses to 22 questions that covered behaviour change, use of data to inform policy, government programs and funding allocation.

The APA welcomed the draft paper’s focus on prevention and reiterated physiotherapy’s central role in prevention and early intervention, particularly for chronic disease.

Embedding models of care that respond effectively to chronic conditions was put forward as a cost-effective way to improve health outcomes by the APA, with particular mention made of physiotherapy-led orthopaedic and neurology screening clinics, and primary contact physiotherapy roles in hospital emergency departments.

In Tasmania, three physiotherapy-led screening clinics currently operate: two focus on orthopaedics and one on spinal conditions. By accurately assessing function, the physiotherapists in these clinics can triage those patients who require more conservative treatment and shorten wait times for specialist medical care.

‘We’re seeing fewer patients going on surgical waiting lists and reductions in wait times from GP appointment to surgery for patients on the surgical pathway,’ Mike Munt, who assists coordination of the Comprehensive Osteoarthritis Pathway clinic at Royal HobartHospital, explains.

Hamish Newsham-West, a physiotherapist working in both the osteoarthritis clinic and the Spinal Assessment Clinic that operates in the same hospital, highlights the flow-on efficiencies screening clinics create.

The APA reiterated physiotherapy’s central role in prevention and early intervention, particularly for chronic disease
‘Apart from speeding up the process for those who need surgery, patients are more receptive to being discharged because they know that if they’re referred back they’ll be seen promptly based on their need.’

Patient satisfaction also comes from something as simple as the initial conversations they have with physiotherapists. Mike says that this can clarify surgical processes and risks and determine the actual needs and expectations of the patients, making them more informed about their healthcare choices.

He feels that the Healthy Tasmania plan is a positive step towards cementing these policies.

To achieve greater health equality in a cost-effective way, the APA’s submission recommended moving away from funding allocations that use past funding levels as a benchmark and looking ahead to the greatest future gains from today’s funding investment.

We’re seeing fewer patients going on surgical waiting lists and reductions in wait times from GP appointment to surgery for patients on the surgical pathway
The APA strongly supported the government’s proposal for a ‘health-in-all-policies’ approach, which is well-known across Europe and North America and involves a more holistic view of health promotion. Areas like urban design, industrial relations, infrastructure and advertising all fall within the purview of health in all policies. Ian Watts, General Manager—Policy and Government Relations, believes such an approach would suit a smaller jurisdiction like Tasmania.

‘The Tasmanian Government [should] refine its program guidelines across portfolios, with the aim of using program funding to strengthen cultural norms of healthy activity,’ he recommended.

The Healthy Tasmania plan is due to be released by the government by mid-2016.


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