Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 06 Hansard (Wednesday, 23 June 2010) . . Page.. 2359 ..
I ask those opposite this question: why wasn’t this same issue brought to our attention two years ago if it was so much of a problem? It is because they had not read it. They had not worked it out. Because they have got some disgruntled person come and give them an episodic problem, they have turned it into a systemic issue yet again.
With these category 1 patients, we ask the surgeons to look at their clinical decision making every 30 days or so. You are going to get this same communication between a hospital and a doctor every month or so. Where is the conspiracy? The hospital is saying that they want the best thing for the patients, but it is the doctors’ decision. They are saying to the doctors, “Here are a number of ways in which you can fix the problem for your patient.” There is nothing in any of the correspondence which says, “You must do this, that or the other.” The doctor is the supreme authority over the welfare of that patient, full stop. This happens quite frequently. As I have indicated already, for category 1 it is every month or so—and for other categories.
The other thing that these guys opposite have not said is this. They are saying, “There are obviously problems for category 1 patients,” as though every single category 1 patient has got a problem. We have not heard from them how other categories can have their surgery brought forward if there is a hole in the list, if there is a cancellation. If there is a hole in the list because somebody has cancelled, wouldn’t you expect the surgeon to ring up the next category 1 patient and say, “Can you come in, please?” Of course, they are not interested in any of this, but this is the fact.
Mr Speaker, I can tell you from personal experience—very recently; in fact as recently as three weeks ago—that a patient who had nasal surgery to correct a chronic airways blockage, not a category 1 patient, was told that they would have to wait until March of next year but then was rung up and asked, “Can you come in next week? We have had a cancellation.” So let us not believe that this is a systemic issue.
These people have got one or two issues that they feel are of concern. They should raise those single issues with the minister, certainly. But we are not seeing a systemic issue. The minister has quite appropriately put the policy and the processes on the table. If you have a good look at that letter, that letter is saying to the surgeons, “We want to help you look after your patients. What is your clinical decision with respect to those patients?”
Every surgeon in this town, including Dr Peter Hughes, who has been in this town for a very long time—in fact, he was a urologist when I first joined Health in 1978, when he was a Liberal member of the then Advisory Council, and I think he was president of the ACT Liberal Party and at one point a candidate in the federal election and missed out there too—knows that they are going to receive this kind of correspondence from the hospital from time to time. Every one of them knows that.
Those opposite are trying to make a straw man out of all of this. If they had any substance to their argument, we would have heard it two years ago. Well, we would not have, because Mr Hanson has not been here that long. But it is true to say that this is nothing unusual in this place. The hospital, in fact, would be derelict in its duty if it did not ask the surgeons to review.