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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 1105 ..

MR STANHOPE: (Leader of the Opposition) (5.39): I would like to make a few comments on this incident. It does not need to be said, of course, that it is a matter of enormous regret, if that is not understating it, that our public hospital system did fail this person to the extent that it did. I guess I do not need to labour the point any more than to agree with the acknowledgment that the Minister has made that this was a most serious breakdown in systems and that the effect or impact of the breakdown on a Canberra citizen was extreme. It is something that we would hope would be avoided. I take to heart the assurances of the Minister about the hospital's or the department's immediate response to the report. I accept what he says about their willingness to accept that on this occasion the systems in place did break down in a fundamental way that we simply cannot tolerate and we cannot permit to be repeated.

I commend the Minister for the way in which he has approached this issue. Immediately the incident occurred, the Minister informed me that it had occurred. I followed up with a question on notice to the Minister, to put on the public record that there was an incident. I did this with the Minister's knowledge. These sorts of issues are best disclosed to the public. The public certainly has a right to know when an institution central to our community does have this sort of systemic breakdown. I think the Minister's approach to the incident from the outset has been very appropriate and is to be commended.

As a consequence of the Minister's advice to me about the occurrence of this incident, I had discussions with the Community Advocate. There is perhaps one aspect of the issue - I have not had time to look through this truncated report in any detail - one might take up with the Minister outside this place. That is whether or not the Community Advocate's expressed or stated concerns about the nature of her relationship with the psychiatric unit have been addressed in the context of those changes which the hospital is making as a result of this report. I do not want to overstate it, Minister, because I am sure some of this will rebound on me some day, but I accept implicitly the undertakings you have made and the willingness of all those involved to correct the situation. But I believe that there are other issues of communication and other issues in relation to the extent of responsibilities in that nexus between the Community Advocate, people with psychiatric conditions and the hospital. It may be that in due course you can give us some assurance that those issues are being addressed as well. I believe that the matter has been addressed appropriately. I welcome the cooperative and open approach that the Minister has taken to the issue and with me.

On a slightly separate matter - I do not want to demean my contribution on this very serious issue - I would like to take this opportunity while I am on my feet to congratulate my Labor colleagues in Queensland on taking office in that State.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (5.44), in reply: I indicate to Mr Stanhope that I have spoken to the Community Advocate, although at the time I spoke to her she had had the opportunity to look only very briefly at the paper. The Community Advocate indicated to me that she was content with the recommendations from Dr Doherty, but it is a matter that I will certainly talk to her about in more detail.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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