Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 10 Hansard (16 October) . . Page.. 2926..
MRS BURKE (continuing):
Doctor shortages—The frustrating process of trying to get a third doctor.
A supplementary question, Mr Speaker: why is it so difficult, minister, for your government to have reliable and consistent information and processes in place?
MR CORBELL: Clearly, Mr Speaker, Mrs Burke was not listening to a word I said. I have looked at this issue in some detail. Dr van Rensburg makes three claims. In particular, he claims that the requirement for a certificate of good standing from the UK and South African authorities, the Australian Federal Police check and the requirement for medical indemnity insurance are new requirements that the Medical Board introduced late in the application process. That is not the case, Mr Speaker. I am advised by the Medical Board and by the department of health that these requirements have been made clear on the Medical Board's website since at least the beginning of this calendar year, well before Dr van Rensburg contemplated making an application for a new doctor.
MR SESELJA: Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Acting Minister for Health. Minister, in reply to a recent question on notice from Mrs Burke, advice was provided that the Canberra Hospital has 25 unfilled doctor positions and Calvary Health Care ACT has six unfilled doctor positions. The answer goes on to say that many of these positions are filled by casuals, locums, overtime by doctors or VMOs.
Minister, why has your government created a staffing situation in the ACT's public hospitals where an assortment of casuals, locums and overtime doctors has to be used to manage the workload in these hospitals?
MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, I thank Mr Seselja for the question, and I draw his attention to the fact that issues of workforce shortage are not unique to the ACT. In fact, any informed contributor to this debate would recognise that the availability of specialised medical and nursing staff is a challenge faced by health systems around the country and around the industrialised world.
What is very pleasing, though, Mr Speaker, here in the ACT is that our separation rate for staff leaving the health system is at its lowest level for some time. The separation rate has dropped to under 10 per cent for all staff in the public hospital system. That is a situation which I think is to be commended. We need to retain as many staff as possible. The separation rate is now at its lowest level for some time. At the same time, clearly, the retention rate has increased.
There will always be circumstances where some vacancies need to be managed through locums, overtime or VMOs. That is a normal and an appropriate response to workforce pressures in particular areas of the hospital. But at a time when the ACT is reducing its separation rate to its lowest level for some years and, at the same time, is paying its nurses and doctors very competitive rates of pay, we are seeing the very good outcomes that come from that committed approach by seeing separation rates declining.