Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 1 Hansard (13 February) . . Page.. 220..
Mr Stanhope: Has he agreed to you breaching his privacy like this?
MRS BURKE: As a result he was provided with a referral from his GP to secure an urgent appointment with a Canberra based neurologist as a public patient because he does not have private health insurance. Yes, he has given me full permission to use his name and he is very, very angry. James needed an urgent consultation with a neurosurgeon simply because his condition is worsening. This point was evidenced last week when the Canberra Times interviewed him here at the Assembly. James's condition is so bad that the Canberra Times photographer walked James back to his car just in case his legs failed him.
I want to go to the specifics. Some weeks ago James followed up on his referral and called Dr Tuck's rooms. He was politely told he would have to wait up to eight months for an appointment. So James went back to his GP, who suggested he call one Dr Andrews's rooms. He did so and was told by the secretary that he was in luck because of two cancellations. James made it very clear that he did not have private health insurance. That was all good.
At this stage the surgeon's secretary asked James for his full name. As soon as he provided his full name for the appointment, the secretary said the surgeon could now not see him because James had apparently missed two appointments at the surgery almost three years ago. Apparently missing an appointment results in no consultation! James was completely dismayed and rang his GP, who also rang the surgeon's rooms on his behalf requesting an appointment and was told exactly the same thing—he would not be seen.
The issue is very concerning, very distressing and very upsetting for all. I did write to the minster about the issue last week and, as a result, find her response today at question time to be very insensitive; hence my asking her whether she was sure. At the time I did not want to highlight that James is Indigenous or that he is a part of the stolen generation. Both James and I felt that this was irrelevant because the fact remained that he was refused a specialist consultation on the basis that he had allegedly missed two appointments some years ago.
Now, to place this in further context for the minister, I need to add the following. James was provided with only one telephone number with which to contact the specialist. Whether the VMO has rooms at the public hospital is irrelevant. James's doctor, James himself and I are still at this moment of the understanding that the specialist's secretary organises both private and public consultations on that number. James was a public patient because he did not have private insurance. And since when did we ever have private GPs? James does not remember booking the appointments two years ago. In fact, at the time he was being treated and in and out of hospital. It is a shame that the Chief Minister smirks and scoffs at this.
Mr Stanhope: This is absolutely outrageous, Mrs Burke.
MRS BURKE: The minister can get caught up in semantics all she likes and turn this very serious issue into a joke, but it is not. Moreover, the minister said today that, after her enquiries, James will have an appointment within the next two weeks. Well, I