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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 06 Hansard (Wednesday, 23 June 2010) . . Page.. 2350 ..

MR HANSON: Doctors are being asked to downgrade their patients to a lower category because the surgery cannot be done within the time frame. They are given options, and the options are basically: do it yourself—we know they cannot, because the lists are too long and they have got too many urgent priority category 1s; give it to another surgeon—that surgeon either does not exist or they are all too busy; or we will give you a date but only if you recategorise that patient to category 2.

What they are saying in black and white in this letter is that, for those elective surgery patients in category 1 who will be operated on and given a date by ACT Health, if this doctor agrees, they will actually get a date but what will happen is that they will be downgraded to category 2. If this letter is correct—the minister may wish to confirm it—then it validates what we have been saying, what the patients have said, what David Wentworth has said and, to a large extent, what Peter Hughes has said. What it quite clearly shows is that the downgrading is not occurring because of a clinical reassessment. The downgrading to category 2 is not occurring because the patient got any better; the category is being downgraded simply because the patient cannot be operated on within the 30 days. That is what we have been alleging, and that is what is occurring in black and white.

When I asked the question of whether the minister would consider it appropriate or in accordance with policy that ACT Health would be contacting doctors to ask that they downgrade their patients, the minister responded—and it is on the Hansard— that it would not be in accordance with the policy. In black and white, the minister is saying that that would not be in accordance with the policy. But here we have another document from ACT Health, in black and white, where a doctor is being asked to do exactly that. He is being put in an impossible position—do the surgery yourself, knowing that you cannot; give it to another surgeon, and we know another surgeon cannot do it; or, “We’ll give you a date for your surgery and we’ll operate on this patient, but we’re not going to keep them as a category 1.” It is not, “We want to keep them as a category 1,” but, “We’ll give you a date if you downgrade it to category 2.”

Why would they want to do that? Why would they not simply say, “Here’s a date for your surgery. You’ve got a category 1 patient. We know that there’s a priority. We’re going to have to juggle it. We know that some patients in category 1 aren’t going to be going within the 30 days, but we’ll keep them as category 1, because we know that that’s what they’d be clinically assessed by you as, but, this is the date for surgery.” No, the only way they are going to get that date is through a downgrading to category 2. We made these allegations and Mr Hargreaves asked for proof and Ms Gallagher denied it in the Assembly. Well, there it is, in black and white.

Mr Stanhope: Read paragraph 2.

MR HANSON: Is it the policy or is it not the policy?

Ms Gallagher: No, he can’t.

MR HANSON: I can read paragraph 2, but the point is that paragraph 2 goes to the point of whether the surgeon or another surgeon has the capacity and the ability to conduct that surgery. It is quite clear that that is not the case.

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