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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 5 Hansard (7 April) . . Page.. 1521..


Hospital waiting lists

MR PRATT: My question is to the Minister for Health, Mr Corbell. Minister, I refer to an email sent to you, the Chief Minister and the Leader of the Opposition by Leon Webcke of Kambah on behalf of his wife Monica. The opposition has asked for Mr Webcke's permission to raise this matter in the Assembly.

Mrs Webcke fell heavily on her arm one Friday afternoon and the injury caused her extreme pain. She presented at the emergency department of the Canberra Hospital at 6.00 pm and was assessed by the triage sister as being an urgent case requiring treatment within 30 minutes. Despite that, Mrs Webcke waited for 31/2 hours before an X-ray was performed. There was no radiologist there and a doctor sent Mrs Webcke home with a prescription for Panadeine Forte. On Wednesday of the next week, a radiologist finally had a look at the X-ray and found that she had broken her arm. A CT scan the following morning confirmed that diagnosis.

Minister, why is the Canberra Hospital falling short of Australian College of Emergency Medicine guidelines for the treatment of patients assessed as urgent or semi-urgent within the required time frame?

MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, I would challenge Mr Pratt to find any hospital emergency department in the country that meets the time frames outlined by the Australian College of Emergency Medicine on every single occasion. The reality is that there is not one hospital in this country that is fully compliant with the time frames set by the Australian College of Emergency Medicine for each and every instance of a person presenting.

Mr Pratt should have been aware that the Canberra Hospital, according to the latest figures of the Productivity Commission, has the best compliance in the country when it comes to meeting the time frames set out by the Australian College of Emergency Medicine. Our times are the best in the country and we do more to meet those time frames than any other hospital in the country.

In relation to Mr Webcke's case, I can inform the Assembly that Mrs Webcke was identified as a category 3 patient. They are identified as categories 1 to 5, Mr Pratt, not urgent, semi-urgent and so on. Normally, you would expect to be seen, according to the Australasian triage scale category, within 30 minutes. I am advised that Mrs Webcke experienced a waiting time of 92 minutes, not 31/2 hours. The delay was due to a high level of emergency department workload at the time and prioritisation of more urgent cases—not surprising at times when the hospital gets busy. The most urgent and most life-threatening cases are seen first.

For the information of members, the scale comprises five categories, ranging from triage category 1, which includes patients who require immediate treatment because they are in life-threatening situations, to triage category 5, which includes patients in less urgent circumstances. As I have already indicated to members, Canberra Hospital and the ACT have the best compliance in the country when it comes to complying with those time frames in the emergency department.


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