Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 9 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 2790 ..
MR HIRD: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Chief Minister, Mrs Carnell, in her capacity as Minister for Health and Community Care. Can the Minister inform the parliament as to what progress has been made by the Government in reducing our elective surgery waiting lists?
MRS CARNELL: Thank you very much, Mr Hird, for the question because it allows me, and hopefully this Assembly, and maybe, just maybe, even Mr Berry over there, a chance to thank a group of dedicated professionals who rarely, if ever, are recognised in our public hospital system. Earlier today I was out at the Canberra Hospital, where I met with staff of the surgical wards and theatres. I wanted to do that because they and their colleagues at Calvary Hospital have achieved over the past 18 months an absolutely remarkable feat, I believe, Mr Speaker.
Mr Berry: Did you buy them chocolates?
MR SPEAKER: Order!
MRS CARNELL: Mr Speaker, unfortunately, Mr Berry just cannot stand the truth. He just cannot stand the fact that he failed and we have not. That is really what it comes down to here, Mr Speaker.
Mr Berry: It works. Give them chocolates.
MR SPEAKER: Order, Mr Berry! Now that you are giving other people chocolates, I am cross because you did not give me one.
MRS CARNELL: Mr Speaker, when this Government came to office the waiting list for elective surgery in ACT public hospitals stood at 4,569. The list had actually increased by more than 21/2 times over the previous four years - an enormous increase. When I became Health Minister there seemed to be no clear strategy whatsoever about how to manage this ever-increasing problem. Added to that, there was the problem of a shortage of trained operating theatre staff, particularly at what was then the Woden Valley Hospital.
Things have changed, and they are continuing to change. The Government took the bull by the horns, and I think it was about time that that happened. We introduced a waiting list management policy which, of course, Mr Berry bagged, and a strategy to attack the problem. We provided an additional $2m to target long-term cases on the waiting list. Again, Mr Berry bagged it. The Department of Health conducted a recruiting campaign to boost the number of theatre staff available at the hospital, and, under the guidance of the Clinical School's Professor of Surgery, Don McLelland, both public hospitals got working - - -
Mr Berry: A $22m overspend.
MR SPEAKER: Order! The Minister is answering the question.