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Health Services - Consultancy

MR KAINE: Mr Speaker, through you, I direct a question to the Chief Minister and Minister for Health. Chief Minister, after many years and a number of consecutive consultancies to identify problems in the health system, and particularly in the running of the hospital, I understand that you have finally grasped the nettle, which the previous Minister absolutely failed to do, and have engaged outside experts to implement the recommendations of the Andersen committee, which again the previous Minister failed to do. I have heard that the unions have chosen to opt out of this exercise, which I find rather astonishing. First of all, can you confirm that the unions have indicated that they are not going to cooperate in improving service delivery through the hospital? Secondly, what concerns do you have about the ramifications of that? Finally, Chief Minister, could you advise me of what interest, if any, the Opposition spokesperson on health has taken in this particular consultancy?

MRS CARNELL: It is certainly with great regret that I have to agree with Mr Kaine that it is a real problem that the health industry unions have chosen not to participate in this most important part of the whole health system reform project. We have invited the unions to be part of every step of the way. In fact, through the Trades and Labour Council, we asked them to participate in the selection of the consultant, to participate in the steering committee that will oversight this project, and to participate in the actual project team that will work with the consultants. The steering committee is made up of representatives of the department and it will oversight the whole consultancy. So, we believe that it is essential that the unions are present in, or a party to, that whole process. In approximately 10 weeks, the steering committee will submit to the Government recommendations about the operational efficiencies that are achievable, so that we can then get on with decision-making and consideration of where to go from there.

The job of the project team will be to gather data for review, as part of this initial diagnostic phase. So, the project team will be gathering data, and it is an absolutely essential part of the whole process. We have even offered to pay the salary of a union representative on the project team for this whole process. This is an absolutely unique opportunity for the unions to represent their members in the conduct of a review that will determine the future direction of the health system in the ACT. I simply cannot understand why they have given up that opportunity. The enterprise bargaining agreement allows for the Government - and, for that matter, the department - to seek external and expert advice, and that is exactly what we are doing now. So, obviously, when the Government has considered the recommendations of the steering committee, we will then go into the phase of restructuring and implementing those restructuring proposals. Again, it is absolutely essential that the unions are party to all of these proposals, all of these parts of the restructuring of the health system. We feel that the unions are really letting down their members here. It is important that they are part of that whole process. But the offer is still open.

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