Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 9 Hansard (18 August) . . Page.. 3857..
MR WOOD (continuing):
allegations. These allegations have been taken seriously by the Canberra Hospital and by ACT Health. We have to take notice, and that is what we are doing.
The initial investigation undertaken in response to Dr Bates's letter indicates that satisfactory clinical governance arrangements and clinical outcomes are in place for the obstetrics service and for Canberra Hospital generally. That is the preliminary. But, of course, we will be absolutely careful and exhaustive in what we do so that more detailed work is now underway in ACT Health to examine the performance of the obstetric unit with regard to safety and quality, in order to form a view on the questions raised about the unit.
This work involves the obstetric unit, the clinical governance leadership group in TCH and the deputy chief executive of ACT Health. Existing performance data going back over several years is being examined, as well as the mechanisms in place for clinical review. The matter has been referred to the health complaints commissioner, who is also investigating. However, there is some contextual information that may be useful to members interested in understanding this matter more clearly.
I draw the Assembly's attention to the ACT Health publication entitled, "Perinatal deaths in the ACT 1991-2000."This report shows that the ACT's perinatal death rate differed from the Australian rate for only one year in the 10-year period 1991 to 2000. That year was 1998. What happened in 1998? I note that the most important risk factors for a perinatal death are low birth weight and prematurity. During 1998 there were nine babies born in the ACT with an extremely low birth weight-double the number born with a low birth weight in 1999. Unfortunately, but perhaps not surprisingly, most of these very low birth weight babies died, resulting in the high perinatal death rate in that year. Nevertheless, those babies received the best possible care, as do all babies born there. It should also be remembered that the Canberra Hospital regularly admits sick babies from Victoria and southern New South Wales. We work intensively with other areas to monitor and improve our performance.
There is a further contextual issue. Dr Graham Bates, who lodged the complaint, had a contract as a visiting medical officer at Canberra Hospital until the end of May 1998. Evidence was collected at this time that Dr Bates had performed an illegal act by charging public patients fees for performing services in a public hospital. Members will remember that. The health minister of the day acted properly to stop that practice.
The government is always concerned to guarantee the quality of the health services provided in our hospitals. If we have a complaint, we will act on it. What the government will not do-but this is part of the contextual background-is get involved in what may be a longstanding wrangle between a few health professionals arising from a dispute affecting the employment of one clinician. These are contextual issues that are not always mentioned when articles are written in newspapers.
Mr Stanhope: I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper, Mr Speaker.
Answer to question on notice
MR WOOD: At the end of question time yesterday Ms Dundas referred to a number of