Page 4073 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 24 November 1993

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As I have said before, they rank with the best in Australia, and I would urge doctors to sign them. Doctors who have refused to take out a contract are not being paid.

As far as savings go, we are quite prepared not to make any savings because we want to treat people. It appears that the doctors do not. As far as that goes, it will, of course, cost us significant amounts of money to keep the hospitals running, because we are not going to attack all those other loyal staff who are working diligently within the hospital system as a result of the VMOs strike. We are not going to do that. I do not think there are going to be many savings in it. It is very hard to work out because it is very hard to work out from day to day what the doctors will do because of the guerilla tactics that they are using in this strike action that they are taking.

Mr Cornwell: You find finance difficult to work out anyway.

MR BERRY: Well, it is hard, and that is all you can describe it as. At the end of the day I think there will be a cost impact on the system. It will have an effect on the budget because we are not operating at a level where we will be able to deliver the 50,500 admissions that we said we would. I think that is a summary of the picture, Mr Moore; but, as it develops, I am sure that I will make clear to members in the Assembly what is happening.

Hospital Waiting Lists

MRS CARNELL: Madam Speaker, my question is also for the Minister for Health. The Minister, in an interjection on 20 November 1990, told the Assembly, when referring to Mr Humphries, that waiting lists had exploded through the roof. Subsequently, in an article on 11 June 1991, when describing his priorities as the new Minister for Health, he said that his priorities were, amongst other things, to reduce hospital waiting lists. He went on in that article to say that long hospital waiting lists were a clear indicator that the system was not providing a necessary level of service. Was the Minister accurately quoted? If so, what has gone wrong, given that there has been a 91 per cent increase in waiting lists since he took office? What excuses can he offer for the fact that waiting lists not only have exploded through the roof but now seem to have gone into orbit?

Mr De Domenico: It is the doctors' fault.

Mr Humphries: The doctors, the nurses.

MADAM SPEAKER: Order! I believe that Mr Berry is answering the question.

MR BERRY: That is a silly question. The claim of 91 per cent does not address the issues which have resulted in the current waiting lists. Waiting lists are one indicator of hospital performance. Everybody knows that. They are one indicator. If that was the only indicator that you had you could say that the variation in waiting lists was a measurement of hospital performance. You have to take into account, as I have said over and over again, the average length of stay and the number of people you are treating in the hospital system, and in both areas this Government has done extra well. For example, the average length of stay continues to fall. We are becoming more efficient, people are spending less time acutely ill in the hospital system, and we are treating more people.

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