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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 3 Hansard (30 March) . . Page.. 862..


MR CORBELL (continuing):

contractual arrangement with ACT Health to perform a small number of minor surgical procedures. These surgical procedures are mostly to do with the removal of varicose veins in patients, a minor and relatively straightforward procedure and, effectively, a type of day surgery. Dr Hardman also performs complex cardiothoracic surgery in the Canberra Hospital.

The two types of procedures are not the same. If Dr Hardman is comparing the types of procedures he undertakes at the National Capital Private Hospital with the types of procedures he undertakes at the Canberra Hospital, he is not comparing apples with apples and his assertion in that regard, in my view, is simplistic and unfair. I should add that the reason it is simplistic and unfair is that, clearly, more complex procedures take longer than simple procedures and, to put it simply, Dr Hardman is performing simple procedures at the National Capital Private Hospital and more complex and therefore lengthier procedures at the Canberra Hospital. Obviously, he can do more of the less complex procedures at NCPH and can do less of the more complex procedures at the Canberra Hospital.

That said, Mr Speaker, I am already on the record as saying-indeed, on the record before Dr Hardman made his comments-that we need to improve the work practices across the public hospital system, and that includes in the theatres at our public hospitals. The government has put in place the access improvement program to do just that. It is not necessarily about funding additional sessions. It is also about improving work practices to achieve the best level of throughput in the theatres of our public hospitals that we can. The government is doing that work here right now.

The access improvement program was designed to modernise and redesign work practices to achieve less access block and to reduce cancellations of elective surgery to improve the number of people getting the surgery that they need. It is also about ensuring that we utilise our beds more effectively. The government set for itself the target of having 80 per cent of all surgery admissions happening on the day of surgery. That meant that people were not, effectively, waiting in a bed overnight, taking up a bed the day before their surgery. We have now achieved that. Our day of surgery admission rate is over 80 per cent for the first time. Less than 12 months ago it was only 58 per cent. That shows that we are making real gains in improving the effectiveness of our theatres and the effectiveness of bed utilisation in our public hospitals.

Mr Speaker, the criticism from Dr Hardman is unfair and simplistic. The government has a dedicated program in place to address work force efficiency and work practice efficiency across our public hospital system, including in our theatres.

MRS BURKE: I have a supplementary question. Minister, in light of your answer, is it not more the case that the archaic staffing rosters demanded by the unions make it impossible for the theatres at the Canberra Hospital to run efficiently?

MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, I think that I have already answered that part of the question but, for Mrs Burke's benefit, I will repeat it. I have made the point that work practice needs to be improved and the government has a program to tackle work practice. That is what I said in my earlier answer.


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