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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 2 Hansard (17 February) . . Page.. 576..


Bill agreed to.

Sitting suspended from 12.26 to 2.30 pm.

Questions without notice

Canberra Hospital-staff

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Chief Minister as minister responsible for the public service. Chief Minister, you would be aware of a report in the Canberra Times today that details a memo circulated to acute care staff in the Canberra Hospital that instructs staff to work harder and not to take breaks. Minister, the public sector standards and all current certified agreements note that managers should ensure that "employees take a meal break of not less than 30 minutes no later than five hours after commencing duty, and ideally every five hours thereafter".

Chief Minister, why is the management of the Canberra Hospital breaching the terms of the certified agreement and the public sector standards, and what action are you taking to protect the rights of workers at the hospital?

MR STANHOPE: I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the question. Mr Speaker, I am advised that the memo described by the Canberra Times really was not a memo but a personal email from the deputy general manager at the Canberra Hospital to the director of emergency medicine and one of the emergency department doctors who, at the time that the email was sent, was the admitting officer. It has been described to me as a personal email by the deputy general manager to his employed doctors.

It was never, ever the intention of the deputy general manager of the Canberra Hospital, in sending the email, that it be distributed to staff. It was in the nature of a personal email by the deputy general manager to the admitting officer.

The email-as I say, a personal email-from a senior officer to the admitting officer was made to confirm a telephone call that occurred a few minutes prior to the dispatch of the email. The admitting officer had requested of the deputy general manager that emergency go on ambulance bypass, which, of course, as we know, redirects ambulances away from the hospital's emergency department to other hospitals before they arrive.

Ambulance bypass is, of course, one of a number of ways of managing variation in demand for emergency department services. The Canberra Hospital has very strict criteria, as you would expect, for ambulance bypass, and those criteria involve a process that requires the approval of the deputy general manager or his delegate to any decision to go on bypass.

In this particular instance, the admitting officer, having sought approval, was denied it. The deputy general manager declined to approve a request for ambulance bypass because the deputy general manager was not satisfied that other measures had been taken, at that stage, to redistribute workload, to increase deployment of staff and to admit those patients waiting for admission.


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