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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 4098..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

I want to take this opportunity to allow Mr Smyth to start preparing his press release to congratulate the ACT government and to congratulate the Canberra and Calvary Hospitals for the reduction in the waiting list in our public system. Yes. Indeed, the numbers have dropped-it is great news-and we do have a great hospital system.

I want to take this opportunity to reflect on waiting lists-something very much in Mr Smyth's mind today-and the issues around the targets we should set and the force and influence we should accord to Setting the agenda. It is interesting to see, in a notable release from Mr Smyth today, that he continues to essentially abide by Setting the agenda -the Liberal Party's blueprint for health in the last term which led them to where they are-namely, on the opposition benches.

In respect of Mr Smyth's devotion to the waiting list, it is interesting to see what Setting the agenda says about the waiting list. What Mr Smyth's predecessor said on the subject of waiting lists is very much the matter of utmost moment in Mr Smyth's mind. Mr Moore was the author of Setting the agenda-a document which Mr Smyth has claimed over the past week or so, and indeed again today, is his bible in relation to health care and a health agenda. That document says on page 31:

As far as possible, where additional dollars are available or where resources are freed up, these will be channelled into non hospital based services which provide alternatives to hospital treatment.

That is the basic philosophy. It goes on to say, at page 32-and it is almost as if Mr Moore had Mr Smyth in mind:

Many people wrongly judge the performance of the public hospital system simply on its ability to deal with elective surgery, as reflected by the emphasis on elective surgery waiting times. In reality, the real measure of success of a public hospital is its ability to deal with emergencies-those patients where treatment is urgent and important. On that measure the ACT is a high performing health and hospital system...

This is the assumed wisdom. This is the bible according to Mr Smyth and Mr Moore. It goes on with this little pearl of wisdom:

If you require elective surgery, the aim will be to treat you within clinically acceptable waiting times.

It continues-and this is thought provoking:

However, emergencies will always take priority.

Are we not pleased to know that? This is deep stuff-"emergencies will always take priority". At page 33, Mr Moore goes on to say that the real measure of success for elective surgery was not waiting lists at all, but waiting times. He even said:

This recognises that the length of a waiting list for elective surgery is largely meaningless unless it is related to clinical need. Rather the real measure of success... Relates to meeting clinically acceptable waiting times.

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