Page 1940 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 27 June 2023

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In the report the Auditor-General said that CHS asserted that risks were identified, such as “the potential impact of COVID-19 on the achievement of the initiative’s stated targets”. Yet no risk management plan was developed to mitigate these risks. Minister, were you aware of the lack of planning behind Operation Reboot and, if so, were you surprised that only 43.8 per cent of the promised appointments were delivered?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I do not know that that is a fair characterisation of it. As I have indicated, more than 6,000 additional outpatient appointments were achieved as a result of this program. While the target was for 14,000, this result, in itself, demonstrated a significant amount of additional work that was undertaken during a time of substantial pressure on the health system. This was not the only element of this initiative. This initiative also resulted in us delivering more than 15,300 elective surgeries overall, which was far and away the highest number of elective surgeries that had been delivered in a single year—the next highest being at that time 14,015 elective surgeries. So there was a significant increase in elective surgeries and a significant increase in outpatients.

It is true that Canberra Health Services tried some different models to try to deliver a substantial additional boost in outpatients. Some of those things were not as successful as they had hoped they would be when they undertook the planning. One of the lessons learned, as the Auditor-General has indicated, is that we need to really invest in sustainably growing outpatients within Canberra Health Services. That is exactly what we are doing in this budget.

MS CASTLEY: Minister, how can you claim that the pandemic was the reason that you failed to deliver your budget promise when you did not complete a risk management plan to mitigate those risks?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: The pandemic was an unpredictable period of time when things changed rapidly and regularly over a period of years. This program was highly successful in delivering additional elective surgeries and additional outpatients’ appointments in 2020-21 to make up for some of the challenges that had been experienced earlier in the pandemic in 2019-20.

As I said, Canberra Health Services looked at some different ways of doing things and some of those proved not to be as successful as we had hoped. It is important, when you are addressing the challenges of a pandemic, to explore all options to ensure that Canberrans can get the health care they need. Lessons have been learned. The Auditor-General’s recommendations—and I think there are only a couple—will absolutely be taken on board and will inform future work.

MR MILLIGAN: Minister, how many initiatives from the health and wellbeing portfolio in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 budgets did not have a project implementation plan or risk management plan?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Mr Milligan for the question. Part of the budget process is that there does need to be an implementation plan for all of the budget measures that are brought forward. That includes an assessment of risks as well. It is part of the standard process for developing a business case for the budget.

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