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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 4 Hansard (16 March) . . Page.. 1038..


MR SMYTH (continuing):

increase in emergency admissions, I think you can be pretty sure that any reduction in theatre work is elective surgery, not emergency surgery.

It is also worth noting from this report that admissions at the Canberra Hospital are down 11.3 per cent year to date. So much for the hordes rushing us from New South Wales. As you would expect when admissions are down, total separations are also down. And they are down 10.7 per cent year to date. So the number of people going on the list is down, the amount of surgery is down and the admissions are down. Yet, apparently, we are doing more surgery. Whom are we doing it to? And where are we doing it? If it is not being done at the Calvary Hospital and if it is not being done at the Canberra Hospital and patients are not being admitted for it to be done and patients names are not going on the list for it to be done, where are these mythical patients who are receiving this additional surgery? There it is: there is less surgery being performed in the ACT.

This is further supported when we go back to the waiting list data and look at the monthly averages for patients removed from the list after admissions. And you can actually see that fewer patients are coming off the list. Patients are treated, that is, patients are removed from the list after admission. The Liberal Party average for the period they were in office was 704 patients treated and removed from the list. The Labor average is only 670, after three years of Labor Party reform. With all this additional money that has gone into the system, we are actually treating fewer patients. And it is down by 34 patients a month, which is pretty consistent with the 35 that are not being added.

What we see, Mr Speaker, is that, in the year 2002, it dropped to as low as 646 patients a month being looked at. It recovered a little in 2003, to 658. It is up a little, at 706, in 2004. But it is nowhere near the level we were doing in 2000, which was 714. And the averages also show that there is less surgery being done. So, Mr Corbell: if more surgery is being done, where is it being performed and whom is it being performed on?

The next part of the motion looks at the actual length of the waiting lists themselves. There were 5,035 people waiting for elective surgery as at the end of January. The waiting list has never been this high. Indeed when Labor last left office, in 1995, the waiting list was at 4,560. When we left office in 2001, it was down to 3,488. The waiting list is now at 5,035, an all time high, a personal best for Mr Corbell. It is the worst waiting list numbers in the history of self-government and it is this minister's responsibility.

I acknowledge that there is always a seasonal jump in January, but the lists tend to finish the year ahead of where they had started. If this year follows the trend, we can expect the waiting list to be about 5,300 by year's end. We know that February was not good for the minister because we had that terrible email directing staff to come back from their tea breaks. We had that awful email that they should skip their meal breaks. And we had the denial by the executive to let the hospital go on bypass when it was recommended by the clinicians.

Mr Speaker, how is this all possible? How can we have the record level of people waiting if, as the minister has said, more people than ever are accessing elective surgery? The short answer is that it is not possible. Demand is static but levels of surgery are dropping. Just about every measure available on the performance of our hospital points


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