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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 1 Hansard (15 February) . .

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Mrs Dunne: So you disagree with the salaried medical officers about morale?

MR RATTENBURY: We are actively recruiting into ACT Health, and I have been very clear about this. It is a challenging environment to work in, and it is hard for people some days. But that does not mean that we are not working hard to ensure we have suitable staff in the positions.

Health—medical staff

MISS C BURCH: My question is to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing. I refer to your ministerial statement of 15 February 2018 in which you claimed that the ACT had more medical practitioners per head of population than the national average. Minister, how do you reconcile this claim with the ongoing lack of specialists and GPs in the ACT?

MS FITZHARRIS: From the data provided in the recent report on government services.

MISS C BURCH: Minister, if your claim on medical practitioner numbers is true, why do patients in the ACT have long wait times to see a specialist before they are placed on long wait lists for surgery?

MS FITZHARRIS: It is not my claim. Building on what Minister Rattenbury has also just said, there are particular areas of specialist shortage. That does not mean that overall we do not have a greater number of health workers in our community than most other jurisdictions. As I mentioned in my priorities statement and a couple of other times throughout the course of this week, and as Minister Rattenbury just referred to, ACT Health is very focused on attracting a high quality workforce to Canberra. I have outlined that shortly we will be undertaking significant work in a workforce attraction strategy, and we will be targeting particular medical specialties.

MRS DUNNE: Minister, why does the public health system still lack the capacity in the availability of surgeons, theatre time and after care beds that would allow more operations to be performed?

MS FITZHARRIS: It does not. As I have indicated, though, there are some areas where we have seen challenges, particularly in recruiting specialists. In some areas there is only a very small number of specialists. For example, if one specialist has unplanned or unexpected leave, that can have a significant impact. But I do note that in recent data that has been published nationally we have seen very good timeliness in a number of key elective surgery areas in particular. This includes cardiac, thoracic, gynaecology, head and neck, obstetrics and vascular surgeries.

As we have indicated previously, there are some challenges with recruitment in a number of speciality areas, and that would include urology and, as Minister Rattenbury has said, in psychiatry as well. We are focused and ACT Health is focused on meeting those gaps and we look forward to providing more advice to the chamber and the community about attracting even more medical specialists to our city.


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