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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 2169 ..


Hospital Waiting Lists

MR STANHOPE: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Health and Community Care. The July patient activity data for Calvary and Canberra hospitals show that waiting lists continued to grow. According to the July data, the Canberra Hospital waiting list for gynaecology/obstetrics is at 521, compared with 387 at the same time last year. The Calvary figure is up by 95, from 123 to 218. Similarly, the Calvary figures for general surgery have increased by 168 and for ophthalmology from 36 to 94. Can the Minister advise the Assembly and the thousands of Canberrans waiting for surgery and other services what he is doing to address this crisis?

MR MOORE: The July waiting lists are indeed disappointing. They show an increase of 518 people from the previous month. Contributing factors were the reduced supply of VMOs during contract negotiations, which led to reduced elective theatre activity, and also the presentation of stockpiled requests for admissions as VMOs signed their contracts with the hospital. The August figures, which will be released soon, show an even worse picture, with a further increase in waiting lists. I do not have those figures at my fingertips but they are worse.

The question you asked, and I think the critical question, is: What are we doing about it? I have asked the department and the hospital to assist me in developing a strategy for dealing with it. Probably the most controversial part of that strategy will be publishing which doctor has what length of waiting list so that a GP who is referring will know what doctors are likely to take the longest. This is a concentration on waiting times rather than waiting lists. I have also requested that there be a review of the waiting lists, an audit of the waiting lists, to ensure that people on them are appropriately on them. I think the combination of those two factors will be significant.

I would remind you that the length of waiting lists is not a good indication of what the hospital is doing. The critical issue still is the waiting times. It is the waiting times that I want to put most effort into. If somebody has to wait for over 12 months for a circumcision or somebody has to wait for breast reduction surgery, that does not cause me a great deal of worry, unless there is a particular clinical reason for the surgery. If there is a clinical reason, of course that is a different story. If it is cosmetic surgery, then I do not worry about it.

Other strategies are the purchase of additional throughput in specialties within appropriate patient waiting time - we are focusing specifically on those - implementation of the theatre management system, increasing day surgeries, renovations of the day surgery centre to promote throughput and expansion of the pre-admission clinic.

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