Page 3048 - Week 09 - Thursday, 13 October 2022

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deliver our elective surgeries this financial year, despite the impact of the digital health record and it has been worked through very carefully with the private providers to ensure that that agreement with them is achievable.

MR COCKS: Minister, how many patients will be shifted into the private system for their elective surgeries and how long have these patients already been waiting?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Mr Cocks for the supplementary and I will take the question on notice to provide the detail about the break-down and how many surgeries are going to be performed through the private provider program, the high value surgery program and the elective joint replacement program with our private partners.

ACT Health—dermatology unit

MS CASTLEY: My question is to the health minister. I refer to an April 26 briefing note to you, obtained by the Canberra Liberals through an FOI request, revealing the ACT has not met demand for dermatology, with only 3.8 FTE dermatologists when we need more than double. Acting CEO of Canberra Health Services, Cathie O’Neill, warns there is no workforce plan to recruit dermatologists and the problem will reach “unmanageable levels” in two years. She warns waiting times could also blow out, with 1,048 patients already on the list and 969 waiting for their first appointment.

When will you employ eight FTE dermatologists, which in the briefing note is the estimate of what Canberra needs to meet community demand?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Ms Castley for the question. The dermatology unit at Canberra Hospital, through Canberra Health Services, treats people with a wide range of skin diseases, including some very rare conditions that require specialist treatment. Most dermatologists work across the public and the private system though.

I can advise Ms Castley that Canberra Health Services has recently employed additional medical staff to work within the dermatology unit. The unit is undertaking service planning to ensure that the service does run well, into the future and its function is not dependent upon individual staff members, which has been one of the considerations here.

I have met with members of the dermatology unit to discuss their concerns in relation to the capacity of the unit. Infrastructure works are also about the commence to enhance the clinical environment for the dermatology unit. That will provide additional clinic space, shared with the rheumatology department, which is a sharing that makes sense in terms of the clinical engagement between those two areas.

In addition, I can advise that some existing visiting medical officer staff have agreed to transition to staff specialist positions to further support this service. The dermatology unit was scheduled to transition and has transitioned to the division of cancer and ambulatory support on 1 October, aligning dermatology, rheumatology and immunology together, which will allow the existing teams who specialise in systemic inflammatory diseases with clinical needs that span across a range of specialist areas to be an integral part of the care team.

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