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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 4 Hansard (10 April) . . Page.. 1312..


MR STANHOPE (continuing):

much as we might sympathise with any particular claimant on any particular issue, the government cannot, particularly on the basis of the fault-based scheme, intercede or intervene in a matter that is still being negotiated by the insurer.

Canberra Hospital—complaint processes

MRS BURKE: My question is to the Minister for Health. Minister, a woman recently filed a complaint in regard to the treatment and care of her mother during a stay at the Canberra Hospital. She was told by the complaints supervisor that "there are very clear and obvious systems in place to make a complaint". Despite being advised that the complaint would be dealt with by the Health Services Commissioner, the woman was then advised that this would not be the case and that instead the Canberra Hospital would be responding. However, a couple of days later the woman received advice that Canberra Hospital "would not be investigating as the Health Minister is investigating". Minister, is this what you would accept as a very clear and obvious system for complaints?

MS GALLAGHER: I think I am aware of the case. It is true that there are a variety of mechanisms by which a person can make a complaint about the health system. They can go to the health complaints commissioner; they can go to the Canberra Hospital; and on occasion they do come to me. And they can go to all three. The advice in this case around the Canberra Hospital was probably that I had asked the Canberra Hospital to provide me with advice because, as I understand it, in this case a complaint had also come to me and I would be formally responding to the complainant based on advice from the Canberra Hospital.

Having said that, I should say that there is certainly room for improvement in relation to complaints management in the hospital itself. The health complaints commissioner is a separate matter; it is an independent statutory office. Putting that aside, in terms of providing patients with information about how to proceed with their complaint, I think we can do that better. I think we can provide more information to people. And in relation to that day-to-day interface with patients in the system and how the hospital responds, if there are complaints raised while people are in the hospital or they have just left, I think improvements can be made. Over a number of months I have had a number of discussions with ACT Health over this—about making sure that people are aware of the processes and that the processes are responsive.

It is one of those difficulties when you are looking at how you meet demand in the health system—to provide the services you need to provide but in addition deal with what seem to be demands for, in a way, communication improvements. That seems to be central to a lot of the complaints that come to my office—lack of communication, lack of understanding or not being sure about where to go. All of those are very easy things to resolve if the communication is there. As I have said, I have spoken to ACT Health about looking at ways that we can improve that.

In relation to this complaint and the issue that Mrs Burke raised, I believe, rather than the hospital responding before I have had the opportunity to respond, that that is the reason why it has occurred in this situation. That is not to say that the hospital is not investigating it. They are; they are doing so at my request so that I can respond directly to the complainant.


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