Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 22 April 2021) . . Page.. 1090 ..
whether, by the time they get their procedure, they will have developed something deadly. The delays that this list is creating can be deadly.
I do not want to give up hope that things can improve in our health system. Other governments seem to be able to do this better. Why are we so different? I look forward to hearing what the minister has to say. It is right that she has a chance to explain, but gosh I hope the answer is not, “We are working on it,” because we have heard this explanation for more than a decade now. If the government was working on it, we would not have the longest wait times in Australia—over 7,000 people on the endoscopy waiting list—and tragically people developing cancer while waiting for the test and treatment that they need. I look forward to the minister’s comments and to concluding the debate.
MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Families and Community Services and Minister for Health) (3.22): I thank Mrs Jones for bringing this motion to the Assembly. It is an important issue in relation to the delivery of endoscopy procedures in the ACT public health system. As Mrs Jones has outlined in far greater detail than I was intending to do, and therefore I do not need to try to pronounce all those difficult words, endoscopies are a medical procedure that gives medical professionals a direct view of the body’s internal organs. This procedure generally uses a thin, flexible tube with a camera at the front to view particular areas of the body, depending on the referral.
The most well-known of these procedures are gastroscopy and colonoscopy, which are used to view, for gastroscopy, the stomach and oesophagus, and for colonoscopy, the bowel. I am advised, and I am sure anyone who has been through this procedure would know, including Mrs Jones, that endoscopies require significant preparation involving reduced diet, clear fluids and preparation to cleanse the gut. Because of this, it is not feasible to fill procedure appointments at short notice.
It is also important to note that, while endoscopy procedures are commonly day procedures, they do involve sedation with a level of risk and the potential for complications, just like surgical procedures. One such risk associated with colonoscopy is a perforated bowel and, while rare, this can be extremely serious and indeed life-changing. In the ACT these procedures are currently undertaken by our brilliant and dedicated public medical specialist gastroenterologists. They provide these services to ACT and New South Wales residents principally through Canberra Health Services. Endoscopy services at Calvary Public Hospital Bruce are provided through visiting medical officer arrangements. These specialists manage their own waitlists for public patients.
The CHS endoscopy unit is compliant with national guidelines surrounding the number of scopes that can be undertaken on a list at each session. An optimal endoscopy involves careful and detailed inspection to ensure no abnormalities are missed and, if any are found, they are safely dealt with endoscopically at that time. It also needs to be done with a level of skill to minimise the risk of any complications. In this context, I think it was rather glib of Mrs Jones in her comments to media earlier in the week to say, “These are the types of procedures we should be able to just pump through a lot of in a day.”