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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 7 Hansard (23 August) . . Page.. 1950..

MS GALLAGHER: In terms of theatre utilisation, our theatres are able to be used on Saturdays. For elective surgery, they largely operate between eight and five on weekdays. We do not tend to use them for much longer than that because there has been report after report about overtired doctors operating in theatres. There are some very good reasons why you would not extend use of the operating theatres from what is the case now.

Mr Mulcahy: Dr Sherbon refuted that claim in estimates two years ago.

MS GALLAGHER: I am not going to talk about what private hospitals do, but there is a lot of evidence on why you would not run your theatres into the night for elective surgery. We do not intend to do that. But we do have three theatres over at Calvary, for example, that the private hospital uses, through our generosity—but for a price.

Members interjecting—

MS GALLAGHER: They are publicly funded, publicly built operating theatres but we have an agreement that the private hospital can use them. But it does raise a question: in the future, when we will need to either build new operating theatres or resume those theatres, what are we going to do? If we want to see continued growth in the number of elective surgery procedures performed, we will need more operating theatres, more staff and more beds. All of those questions are on the table at the moment in terms of how we are going to respond in the future. Certainly, we have enough operating theatres to meet public demand, and we use them to the best of our ability. There is a whole range of work going on about the best utilisation of theatres. We have already implemented some changes in that regard, and we will continue to do so to make sure that they are being run efficiently. In terms of any major extension to operating theatre hours, that is not on the table.

Significant change is occurring in the emergency department regarding improved access. We have established a fast-track system to try and deal with the less acute patients so that they can be seen quickly. We have the best response times in the country for category 1. Our category 2s are very good. Yes, there are significant issues around category 3—and, to a lesser extent, category 4. I have met with the emergency department senior staff. I have travelled to Sydney to see what is done in hospitals that are performing well against targets. There is a whole range of reasons for this. For example, in many hospitals in Sydney, the clock stops at the nurse-initiated treatment. Here, that does not happen. Here, the measure involves when the doctor sees the patient. If we made that one single change, we would see significant changes in that AIHW report.

There is a whole range of reasons. I am not going to make excuses, because more work needs to be done on categories 3 and 4. But in terms of delivery of health services, what the hospital does—what it achieves, the performance measures for infection rates, unplanned returns to theatre, and access to emergency treatment—we are number one in the country. Ours is the only hospital system that has 100 per cent accreditation as well. These are the things that you should add to your media release when you bag the system, bag the hospital, bag the doctors and bag the nurses.

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