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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 1 Hansard (28 February) . . Page.. 132..

Health—service complaints

(Question No 1421)

Mr Smyth asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 23 November 2006 (redirected to the Attorney General):

(1) What is the reason for the increase in the number of complaints that were lodged with the Community and Health Services Complaints Commissioner during 2005-06;

(2) Is this increase in complaints consistent with trends in complaints being recorded in other jurisdictions in Australia;

(3) What action is being taken to reduce the number of complaints being lodged with the Commissioner.

Mr Corbell: The answer to the member's question is as follows:

(1) In the 2005-06 financial year, the former Community and Health Services Complaints Commissioner's office (now the Health Services Commissioner, Human Rights Commission) received 276 written complaints, which was an increase of 33 (or 13%) on the previous year.

As documented in annual reports of the Commissioner, for the past two years the office has made every effort to engage in community education. That work has taken the form of linkage forums, a regular calendar of workshops on health rights and responsibilities and health privacy, ongoing contact with advocacy groups, community forums on topical issues, eg the aged care sector, and delivery of a range of talks and seminars.

Community education and outreach produces greater awareness of the Commissioner's role and a corresponding increase in the number of people who make contact.

(2) While South Australia is a new jurisdiction, in 2005-06, there has been a decrease in the number of complaints received in Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania and the

Northern Territory. There was an increase in the number of complaints received in Queensland and New South Wales. I note that in both those States the health complaints agencies had a high community profile because of reforms and major investigations in those jurisdictions. Once again, greater awareness of the agency appears to lead to increased number of contacts by the public.

(3) Research conducted by the former Australian Council for Safety and Quality in Health Care (now the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care) has indicated that, in instances where a person has a concern about a health service, only 4% of those concerns are brought forward as formal complaints. If complaints are regarded as opportunities for improving service, then increasing numbers of complaints can be seen in a positive light.

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