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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 9 Hansard (19 November) . . Page.. 2678 ..

Proposed Inquiry - Public Hospital Waiting Lists

MR RUGENDYKE (12.11): Mr Deputy Speaker, I move:

That the Standing Committee on Health and Community Care inquire into and report, by the last sitting day of June 1999, on public hospital waiting lists (both surgical and non-surgical) with particular reference to:

(1) the factors contributing to the fluctuations in the current waiting lists;

(2) the acceptability of the current clearance times, given the presence of two public hospitals in Canberra and the Territory's population;

(3) the measures that are required to achieve the acceptable clearance times; and

(4) any other related matter.

I rise to outline my reasons for proposing an inquiry into public hospital waiting lists and ask my fellow members to support this effort to obtain and interpret quality information for the benefit of both the Assembly and the community. The purpose of setting up an inquiry into public hospital waiting lists is to try to obtain some concrete answers to a topic which has caused and continues to cause a lot of confusion in the ACT. Ever since the formation of self-government almost a decade ago, waiting lists have been a recurring source of debate. Unfortunately, this debate just goes round in circles. Whenever the issue of waiting lists enters the public forum, doctors, nurses and government all tend to blame each other for the fluctuations. The debate never seems to be anything but a finger-pointing exercise, and I do not see this as a satisfactory manner to tackle the issue. I see the inquiry as a way of trying to take the issue forward.

Waiting lists are an issue which is not unique to the ACT, but I feel that it is time to be proactive and make a genuine attempt to assess how well our hospital system is dealing with waiting lists. Are the fluctuations that we have acceptable when you take into account our population and the medical services available? If they are not acceptable, what levels are and what measures do we have to implement and achieve them? On the August figures tabled in the Assembly, the elective surgery waiting lists at Canberra and Calvary hospitals were close to 5,000. In fact, the figure was 4,934, to be exact. I do not think that we have ever been this close to the 5,000 mark. Two years ago we were down around 3,500. I would like the inquiry to consider evidence from key parties to establish what factors contribute to the variations.

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