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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 11 Hansard (16 November) . . Page.. 3596..

MS GALLAGHER: Luckily for me, I have done what I said I was going to do on 19 September. In fact, I have had a number of meetings over the past six weeks with the new surgical task force that has been set up. I had a meeting with them a week and a half ago, maybe two weeks ago. I also met with the sustainable access task force at the hospital two days later. I have had a number of individual meetings and discussions with staff specialists at the hospital around how the hospital works and areas where it can be improved.

I will continue those discussions when I have the opportunity to meet with the doctors. They are obviously very busy people. It is difficult to arrange times to speak with people because they are often at work, certainly surgeons performing surgery. But they have taken the time to talk with me, and I will continue to discuss options with them about how to improve their workplace and improve the access to elective surgery for the people of the ACT.

I will have general discussions with both the hospitals, that is, both TCH and Calvary public, about how they operate to meet the needs of ACT residents. That includes not just medical patients but emergency department patients and the experience of the emergency department and, importantly, elective surgery to make sure that we are working with surgeons and listening to what they say about how to improve access to elective surgery.

MR MULCAHY: I ask a supplementary question. Minister, when will the nearly 5,000 people on the waiting list gain benefits from the meetings that you have held?

MS GALLAGHER: We have had record access to elective surgery, with over 9,000 operations performed last year. It is true that additions to the elective surgery list keep our numbers fairly high, higher than I think any of us in this place would like to see. I do not think the number is at 5,000. The last big rise I saw was 4,700.

Some of the frustration of the surgeons, particularly at Canberra Hospital, is around having their lists cancelled and not being able to perform surgery. I can understand that it is frustrating when you come to work to perform surgery and you cannot because your list has been cancelled. A lot of that is to do with the fact that, on any given day, 50 per cent of the surgery being performed at the hospital is emergency or urgent surgery.

I am not entirely clear on how to resolve that issue at the moment. We cannot just ignore the emergency surgery or the trauma that comes to Canberra Hospital. We can look at better ways to use Calvary and access their theatres. They are doing a fantastic job in all of their performance reporting. We can look at how we can work better with our private providers. We used them a little bit in the last financial year. Certainly, for high volume, low acuity work, they are probably an option for us this year.

It is difficult, particularly at TCH, to keep an area of the hospital free for elective surgery when you are simply dealing with that much emergency and trauma surgery every day. It is not an easy thing to come in and fix the waiting list. Look at the work that has been done in New South Wales. They are probably 18 months further down

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