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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2012 Week 8 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 3196..


again we have this problem with documentation—

the Government was concerned that the Audit report failed to give sufficient weight to the requirement that public hospitals have to balance the demand for elective and emergency surgery. This was coupled with a failure to acknowledge that a considerable increase in access to elective surgery and reductions in waiting times have been achieved in the 2010-11 financial year.

I think the committee said that what we need is a system that looks at the whole of the system. You cannot just treat various parts of the system in isolation and then blame another part when the first part does not deliver. And at paragraph 3.50 it says:

The Committee is of the view that short-term supply and demand policies to reduce waiting times are essential; however, this needs to be combined with supply and demand policies that lead to sustainable reductions in waiting times.

I think what we are saying there is that the ad hoc, knee-jerk reaction that we so often see from this government, and particularly this health minister—something goes wrong so there is another review, there is another series of changes, there are more words and there is another unit put in place—indicates that the government does not have a handle on how to run the health system as a whole.

There is only one recommendation in this report. As the chair said, we did not have time to do a full report given the number of Auditor-General's reports that come to the PAC committee. But what the committee recommends is that the Auditor-General should do a follow-up audit to examine the management of access to elective surgery at the mid-point of the Eighth Assembly, and that, I suspect, would be a very good thing to occur.

MR HANSON (Molonglo) (3.38): I would like to make a few brief comments about this report, and I commend Mr Smyth for his leadership on this issue.

Mr Speaker, this arose from a situation in 2010 when allegations were made by doctors and patients that elective surgery waiting times were essentially being manipulated—that people put on the urgent category, who should have been seen within 30 days, were having their categories downgraded without any clinical reason or, in many cases, consultation with the patient or the doctor.

When these allegations were raised I brought them to the attention of the media and also raised them in the Assembly. I was attacked by the health minister; she was not then the Chief Minister. In her words she said that I was besmirching all of the staff—and the normal lines about "this is an attack on the staff"and so on. There was a categorical denial that this was happening—a categorical denial that there was this manipulation of elective surgery data.

We pursued this issue in estimates. Ironically, as I recall, the minister responsible was unavailable at one stage because she was in the south of France. And we all know who she was in the south of France with. It is ironic—the correlation that she was unable to answer questions about elective surgery manipulation because she was in the south of France with someone who then manipulated emergency department data.


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