Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 06 Hansard (Wednesday, 23 June 2010) . . Page.. 2337 ..
circumstance from ACT Health ringing up the doctor and saying, “Doctor, we need you to downgrade this patient because we cannot operate on him in time.”
One is essentially the department putting pressure on doctors. The other would be a doctor making a clinical assessment. We need an answer to that because I am not going to accept Katy Gallagher getting up in this place and fudging the figures, telling us everything is okay when quite potentially that is not the case. It is serious misleading of the community and potentially serious misleading of this Assembly has occurred.
Mr Speaker, the facts speak for themselves from the AIHW report. We know that we have the worst elective surgery waiting times in the nation, but we have some facts to uncover on whether those lists have been manipulated. I will not rest until we have that information uncovered.
MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Deputy Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Health and Minister for Industrial Relations) (8.15): I welcome the opportunity to debate in the Assembly tonight the elective surgery motion being put forward by Mr Hanson.
Mr Hanson raises a number of allegations around the management of the elective surgery waiting lists and the waiting list policy in ACT Health—a number of quite serious allegations, supported but without any evidence by Dr Peter Hughes and some comments from a patient.
I think it is worth the time going through the policy that is in place, that I am sure Mr Hanson has read and that is available on the ACT Health website, called the waiting time and elective patient management policy, which actually goes through exactly how the elective surgery waiting lists are managed. It does provide for audits of the list. At the back there are a number of pro forma letters, which I am sure Mr Hanson has read, although maybe he has not—maybe he has not done his homework; otherwise I am sure he would have tabled them here this evening—which go through letters to doctors from the surgical booking areas and letters to patients from the surgical booking area, all updating the waiting list. This is done on a quarterly basis and has been done since this policy was put in place on 1 January 2008.
At the time, there was much discussion and, as I recall, there was discussion publicly around the letters that were being used, because I at that time did not want the letters that were being sent to patients, asking them if they still wanted to be on the list or whether their condition had improved, as a way of us trying to remove people from the list. But it is standard practice in terms of managing your waiting lists, making sure your waiting lists are up to date and that your doctors are informed.
It is true that our elective surgery waits are the longest in the country in particular areas of specialty. I have gone through a number of the reasons for that. We have had to build up our bed capacity. We have got to the point where our bed capacity is now able to sustain in excess of 10,000 procedures a year, which is about a 30 per cent increase on what we were doing back in 2002. So beds are part of the answer, staff are part of the answer, as are nurses and surgeons, more intensive care beds and more operating theatres, all of which we have put in place over the last few years.