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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 12 Hansard (Tuesday, 23 November 2021) . . Page.. 3465 ..

One disturbing revelation, however, from the hearings was that, of the 20 recommendations of the Independent review into the workplace culture within ACT public health services, a report handed down some 1,000 days ago, only eight have been implemented.

The health minister provided a variety of explanations as to why this was the case, some of which no doubt were significant, but it is still disappointing that we have not yet got further. I understand that more progress is being made on fixing the culture in the Canberra Hospital, and that will be great news to all of our doctors, nurses and allied health staff who have taken on and sacrificed so much during the pandemic. We owe it to them to make sure that a safe and respectful workplace is provided to them. That is the least we can do for these people.

The committee’s hearings were an opportunity to go over the performance data for the emergency department at the Canberra Hospital and elective surgery waiting times in the ACT public health system. Put simply, the performance data of Canberra Hospital makes it, on some measures, the worst performing in the country. Just to recap the data, the Canberra Hospital’s performance on category 3 wait times at emergency—these are people who should be seen within 30 minutes—is appalling. It is 29 per cent against a target of 70 per cent. This is down from an outcome of 74 per cent when the Liberals were last in office, and now it is the worst in the country.

The number of people discharged from emergency within four hours—the health minister’s preferred measure; that is, treated and allowed to go home or admitted into the hospital—which she committed to fixing in nine months in January this year, is 57 per cent, against her target of 90 per cent. When pressed on this target in estimates, the health minister said, effectively, that she really did not know why that was the target, and she only ever really intended to get to 70 per cent, which is what she committed to in January.

Repeated failures to meet either of these targets are not just symptoms of a system that is not functioning well; they are an indication that people in the ACT are having difficult clinical experiences and that the staff are having more difficult clinical experiences than they otherwise should and would. It is the most critical issue facing the ACT health system, and it needs to be fixed.

This poor performance was highlighted by the Australian Medical Association and, only last week, former independent ACT health minister Mr Michael Moore. He said:

There is no one else to blame. Just after Labor came into government in 2002-03, the ACT waiting times in emergency departments were amongst the best in Australia. They are now the worst.

He said:

Hang your head in shame, ACT Labor. Hang your head in shame, ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith. The latest AMA report card on our hospitals is a damning indictment on poor government and the parlous state of the ACT hospitals.

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