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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 06 Hansard (Wednesday, 23 June 2010) . . Page.. 2338 ..


We do have the highest utilisation rate of a public hospital anywhere in the country, second only to the Northern Territory. People come and use the public system for their elective work and that is partly because of the quality of the public system but also because of the restrictions or the lack of capacity in the private sector.

The median waiting time across the territory is currently 73 days; that is, 44 days at Canberra Hospital and 110 days at Calvary. Canberra Hospital’s median waiting time has declined from 51 days at this time last year to 44 days, and Calvary hospital’s has increased from 98 days to 110 days from this time last year. It is not surprising, considering that a lot of the urgent work is done at Canberra Hospital, that we would see those distortions, but certainly Calvary’s median waiting time is going in the wrong direction and we are speaking with Calvary Public Hospital about our concerns about that.

In terms of the way forward, in terms of improvements and increasing access to elective surgery—I have spoken at estimates and again in this place a number of times—now that we have three extra theatres, we have all of our theatres at Canberra Hospital operating, we have extended the operating times, we have employed more surgeons, we have extra recovery beds, we are able to increase our throughput. We cannot, however, increase it much more than at the moment, so we are looking to our private sector partners for assistance with that.

I have written to the AMA. In the past, some of our private specialists have not been as welcoming of putting work out to the private sector as I hope they are going to be in the future; they have put restrictions on what work can be done in the private system. However, with the tender that has just been completed—we have had four responses to that tender, plus another approach from another organisation—I feel that we will be able to get a considerable amount of work, particularly for our ENT list, out into the private sector, and that will significantly reduce the wait lists in those specialty areas where there are long waits.

In relation to concerns that there has been doctoring of lists or manipulation of lists, can I stand here and say that that is simply untrue and there is no evidence to say that that is a practice that is employed by ACT Health. Yesterday, I was asked a number of questions around this and the Hansard shows them. I reflected yesterday on my answers that I had given, to make sure that what I had said was true. I was asked a number of times whether or not I think admin staff approach doctors and ask that their patients be downgraded, or that pressure was put on doctors, I think, to downgrade their clients; and I can absolutely say that that is not the case.

I can confirm, as I did yesterday, that conversations do occur between the surgical booking area and doctors around management of their lists and indeed letters are given. Letters are in this policy, which is on the website, which everybody can read—it has been on the website since 1 January 2008; there is no secret about what is in it—and which request that doctors regularly audit their lists.

This waiting time and elective patient management policy was put together by the Surgical Services Task Force, which is made up of senior surgeons from both


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