Page 3099 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 20 September 1994

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   Tuesday, 20 September 1994


MADAM SPEAKER (Ms McRae) took the chair at 2.30 pm and read the prayer.


Nursing Costs

MRS CARNELL: Madam Speaker, my question without notice is directed to the Minister for Health. In April this year the Minister publicly released a review of ACT Health by Andersen Consulting which showed on page 60 that ACT nursing costs were significantly higher than average, compared with Victorian hospitals. Why then did the Minister choose not to release another report by Andersen Consulting, "Woden Valley Hospital Inter Hospital Comparison", given to ACT Health just one month earlier - and I accept that it was when Mr Berry was Minister - which showed that ACT nursing costs were, in fact, just below average when compared to a mix of Victorian public and private hospitals? Which one is true?

MR CONNOLLY: Why I did not release a report which did not come to me when I was not Minister is a little hard for me to answer. I must say that I had assumed that that earlier report was a public document. It presumably is a public document, because Mrs Carnell has a copy of it. If it is not, I am happy to bring a copy down and table it. It is certainly not a secret document. The views in that document on nursing costs are different to the final Arthur Andersen report, which is itself consistent with every other inquiry into ACT Health. The fact that we have high nursing costs, I thought, was a notoriously well-known truism. How we resolve that and how we create a nursing structure that provides a better service to the clients, better opportunities for career nurses and satisfactory professional development for nurses is a difficult issue; but the fact is that we have higher nursing costs than the national average. Every inquiry bar that one seems to have confirmed that. We have higher medical costs than the national average, which every inquiry has confirmed. That we have some administrative costs at Woden that are higher has been confirmed.

Mrs Carnell says that she will fix health by slashing over $30m - yes, I would smile too if I were responsible for such a foolish policy - from the health budget, which amounts to a 13 per cent expenditure reduction, which is an expenditure reduction on a par with what Jeff Kennett has done in Victoria. If you are concerned about nurses, Mrs Carnell, you should explain to the nurses what you are going to do to them with a 13 per cent expenditure reduction. Unless the nurses say, "Gee, Mrs Carnell, we would like to reduce our salaries by 13 per cent", and the doctors say, "Gee, Mrs Carnell, we would like to reduce our VMO contracts by 13 per cent" - unless both the doctors and the nurses say that, and I somehow do not think they will; I know that you are a magical person with great powers because you can produce money from the bottom of a hat - your 13 per cent, or $30m, expenditure reduction is going to lead to scenes at Woden just like Melbourne, where nurses by the hundreds got the chop.

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