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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 4 Hansard (31 March) . . Page.. 1420..


MRS CROSS (continuing):

premature death of patients, and serious accusations of ill treatment of other patients have been found to have been covered up by hospital management and doctors.

MR CORBELL: The question is somewhat hypothetical, but the quick answer is no.

MRS CROSS: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Minister, can you briefly explain what mechanisms are in place to address such problems?

MR CORBELL: It is fair to say that the range of mechanisms in place to identify concerns about the operation of any public health system, indeed the systems in place here in the ACT, are quite comprehensive. For example, the role of the Community and Health Services Complaints Commissioner is a very important one. He is an independent ombudsman for complaints from consumers regarding the course of treatment they receive through the ACT public health system. The commissioner undertakes an extensive range of investigations every year to identify and look at the causes of any failings brought to his attention by consumers concerning care, or lack thereof, in the public hospital system. Wherever possible, he seeks to work cooperatively with the health system to identify ways to improve any deficiencies that may be identified.

Additionally, I am very pleased to advise the Assembly that the government, since the establishment of the unified health portfolio, is now establishing for the first time coordinated territory-wide clinical governance arrangements so that within our public hospitals, indeed across both our two public hospitals, Calvary and the Canberra hospital, we will have significant clinical governance arrangements to coordinate the level of clinical care provided and to identify any particular problems surrounding clinical care. In addition to that, we have an extensive range of clinical privileges committees in place to discuss, under privilege, any deficiencies in the level of care or treatment provided in our public hospital system. So, there is a reasonable range of measures in place.

My summary today has been by no means exhaustive, but I hope it gives Mrs Cross and other members a better understanding of what mechanisms are in place to identify failings in health care. I must say, in relation to the New South Wales experience, one of the greatest difficulties was, as was identified by my counterpart, Mr Iemma, the failure of the ombudsman in the case. Their equivalent of our commissioner for health services complaints failed to bring to the government's attention issues of concern. The comment on the subject was something like, "It whispered where it should have roared."I am not fully conversant with the circumstances in New South Wales, but I can say that our mechanisms are robust and have certainly worked well in all the time that I have been Minister for Health.

Environmental advisory committees

MRS DUNNE: My question is to the Minister for Environment. In response to a question from Ms Tucker yesterday, you criticised the natural resources committee for not coming forward in 1997 when the previous government undertook its preliminary assessment process for Gungahlin Drive. I quote you:

There was a preliminary assessment process initiated by the previous government in 1997. I cannot believe that those organisations or those individuals did not have an


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