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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (28 May) . . Page.. 728 ..

MR WOOD: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. How, then, does the Chief Minister reconcile the statements by the chairman of that forum with the statement that she has not misled the Assembly? The statement is quite clear; that it was not offered a briefing. The Chief Minister has been quite clear. She said they were offered a briefing. Where are you wrong, or is he misleading the community?

MS CARNELL: The complaint, and the subsequent taking up of that complaint by the complaints unit, happened in January 1998, Mr Speaker, as members would know. The complaints unit was formalised in January 1998 to deal specifically with the pool complaint. Information was prepared for forum members for the January meeting which did not take place, Mr Speaker. No meeting has been convened between that time and the proposed meeting yesterday. The reality is that my department did prepare information, a briefing for the forum on the complaints unit, Mr Speaker, which was set up, formalised, to handle the Belconnen complaint, in January; but unfortunately the members of the forum could not get their act together to have a meeting so that it could be presented.

Visiting Medical Officers Dispute

MR BERRY: My question is to the Health Minister, Mr Moore. Minister, you were reported in the Canberra Times today as saying that contingency plans were in place which may necessitate the transfer by air to New South Wales hospitals of some patients in emergency situations. What emergency roster arrangements for striking doctors will be in place? Will striking doctors be allowed to treat their private patients when they have boycotted the treatment of public patients? Will any staff be stood down because of the visiting medical officers strike?

MR MOORE: I thank Mr Berry for giving me just a few minutes' notice of that question. I had a meeting last night with representatives of the Canberra Hospital, Calvary Hospital, the ACT Ambulance Service, the Department of Health and Community Care and people from my office. One of the things we had to be particularly careful with was to make sure that we avoided any areas that could have been perceived as possible areas of collusion. The meeting was purely to ensure that we had in place contingency plans for the situation in case the contracts were not signed. I have to say that I am still hopeful that we will get those contracts signed. There are still a couple of days to go. We have had 20 contracts signed. At Calvary, as of this morning, 29 doctors have agreed to the extension of one month. So there will be 29 doctors still working at Calvary, as well as four VMOs who have signed new contracts and 11 consultants, and that is the information as of this morning.

We identified that anaesthetics was an area of need should the emergency service situation arise. That is an absolutely critical area for us. You cannot run hospitals without anaesthetics. The prime direction for anaesthetics would be for women giving birth, because that is the area in which emergency situations arise very quickly and have to be handled very quickly. I was able to glean that emergency departments would remain open in both Canberra Hospital and Calvary. We will be capable of taking emergency trauma cases, and to stabilise and assess them on a case-by-case basis.

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