Page 2913 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 12 October 2022

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median wait time for an initial appointment for paediatric surgery has almost tripled, from 62 days to 161. That is a really sorry state for a sick child—62 days to 161. Kids cannot wait that long. They grow so fast—and this is for an initial appointment.

It was also revealed during estimates that the government is cutting surgery numbers for the elective joint replacement program, from 500 down to 340 patients this year. A patient wrote to me about this program and said, “Yesterday I was informed by a booking nurse that the surgery I desperately need will not be available until 2023. My chronic pain and lack of mobility is causing my quality of life to be very poor. My mental health is rapidly deteriorating.”

Canberrans can only wonder if this patient, the sick children or one of the thousands of other overdue patients would have been seen on time if the Barr-Rattenbury government had provided those 150 extra hospital beds. Might they all have received the quality and timely health care that they deserve?

In the 2021-22 budget the health minister announced that the government would implement nurse-to-patient ratios, and this was negotiated with the Nursing and Midwifery Federation. Canberra Health Services declared that they were confident they would be fully compliant by June 2022, with phase 1. On this issue of nurse-to-patient ratios, like most others I examined in the health portfolio, the government has failed to meet its commitments. When asked in estimates, the health minister admitted that ratios had not been met. This means more stress and pressure on our hardworking nurses and health workers.

The health minister announced last week an $8.7 million wellbeing fund to address staff burnout and stress. The nursing and midwives union rejected it as a bandaid solution, with Secretary Matthew Daniel adding: “I do not know how the government sees this will address the significant workforce issues, apart from possibly providing a slight feel-good factor”. Our health workers deserve better from this tired, incompetent government—so much better.

Before concluding, I should point out that the Canberra Hospital this year has passed its minimum requirements to be an accredited tertiary hospital. This was trumpeted by the health minister because four years ago the government failed the first round and just passed the second inspection.

The Canberra Hospital’s accreditation is a victory that belongs solely to our incredible, dedicated, hardworking hospital staff who give their all to care for our sick and vulnerable Canberrans. Hospital staff achieved this accreditation despite the government’s neglect and underfunding and despite this government’s repeated failures to properly resource our health and hospital system and to properly recognise and reward our nurses, midwives and other health staff.

I said at the outset that, after more than three years in the role, it is timely to shine a spotlight on our health system and see how our health minister has fared. The report card is not good. It is a fail for the minister and the government for its appalling neglect and constant underfunding of our health system. This government has let down its greatest asset, our nurses, doctors and our amazing health workers. And this government has also let down the Canberra community.

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