Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 7 Hansard (29 June) . . Page.. 2680..
MR HANSON (continuing):
patients are being knocked off that list and downgraded. It is complex; there is no doubt it is complex. But, as a result of this minister's mismanagement, what is happening is that people who would otherwise be classified as urgent are being downgraded to less urgent categories, against national reporting standards.
In the media, Katy Gallagher has taken great delight in announcing those figures. But, when you scratch away the surface, you get to the underlying issues and you realise is that there is a sham; that there are a number of patients that should be recorded as urgent but, simply because they could not be fitted into the 30-day mark, have been downgraded. It is not that their surgery has become less important, or their surgeon. It is not that their clinical position has improved, that they have got better. It is simply because they could not be operated on within the 30-day mark. It is a disgrace to then downgrade statistics to make them look better, and that is, without question, the consequence of what is occurring.
Now I will turn to some of the quotes where Katy Gallagher has misled the Assembly. It is quite clear when you look at the evidence that that is the case. There are a number of questions that she was asked. Jon Stanhope actually misread questions and read out the wrong questions to try and obscure the facts. But she was asked quite clearly:
Minister, would you consider it appropriate or in accordance with policy that ACT Health would be contacting doctors to ask that they downgrade their patients?
It would not be in accordance with the policy ...
Indeed, on the Wednesday—this is a new one—she reaffirmed this:
I was asked a number of times whether or not I think admin staff approach doctors and ask that their patients be downgraded, or that pressure was put on doctors, I think, to downgrade their clients; and I can absolutely say that that is not the case.
So she said, "I can absolutely say that that is not the case."However, we have got two letters that show, quite conclusively, that that is the case. One says:
If you accept this date, please re-categorise this patient as a '2a Staged Procedure' ...
"If you accept this date"is clearly a request to the doctors. And then we have the other letter that has come to light in the last day. This letter was written on 25 February, so this has been an ongoing discussion in ACT Health, from the Clinical Director of Surgical Services, and he says:
Many surgeons resist or refuse requests to downgrade the category ...
So how is it that the Clinical Director of Surgical Services is saying that doctors are refusing requests? So these requests are clearly happening. But the minister is on the