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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 11 Hansard (13 December) . . Page.. 2974..

MRS CARNELL: The nursing staff in the Emergency Department, as I said earlier, is currently up to establishment. There are 4.88 full-time equivalents who are on Comcare or extended sick leave and their return date is unknown. Their absences have been filled by deploying staff from other areas of the hospital, and we have used, in some cases, agency and casual staff, as Mr Connolly would know. So they are at establishment levels. You are wrong, Mr Connolly, again.

I would like to talk a little about one of the other comments that Mr Connolly made - that somehow it was unusual to pay a locum in accident and emergency $143 an hour. Mr Connolly would know that that is the standard level for locums in accident and emergency. Mr Connolly would also know that it is not unusual to fly locums in from other places in Australia. It happened under Mr Connolly. It happens at Calvary. It happens everywhere. I would be very interested to know whether Mr Connolly wanted us not to fill the position at all and to have a situation in accident and emergency over Christmas where we could not save lives, where we could not end up with a situation of providing absolute basic emergency services to the people of Canberra and surrounding districts. The fact is that I was not willing to allow that to happen.

When Dr Roberts resigned in November we immediately started to advertise his position. As Mr Connolly would also know, it is very difficult to find people of his calibre very quickly. We believe that the position will be filled by next March, but it will take that long. Dr Roberts, because he is a very good doctor and a very dedicated doctor who headed up our accident and emergency area, said that even though he wanted to spend more time in Taree with his family he was willing to fly to Canberra every week to fill in during the time that it took us to fill his position. He is being paid exactly the same amount per hour as any other locum would be paid. He is being flown in, in exactly the same way as any other locum would be flown in.

I am very interested in this, though. Mr Connolly seems to find $143 an hour out of the question. I was interested when I heard Mr Connolly make those comments this morning, so I rang around a bit and found that junior lawyers, straight out of university, are charged out at about $125 an hour. If it is a partner, the charge is double that. It is $250 plus. For people like Mr Connolly, who is an absolute expert in constitutional law, and barristers and all that sort of stuff, it is thousands of dollars a day. The reality is that Dr Roberts, out of the goodness of his heart, has said that he will continue to fill in while we fill his position. He did not have to do that. It is because he is dedicated to Woden Valley Hospital. He is a good doctor. He set up that area, and I think we should be thanking him, not criticising him.

MR CONNOLLY: Minister, can you also confirm that you are requiring nursing staff to ease up on the use of bandages and other sterile equipment in the Emergency Department in order to meet budgets - and I am not quoting from Yes Minister? Can you confirm that there is an instruction that nursing staff should cease using sterile bowls for burns dressings, again in order to meet the budget?

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