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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 3363 ..

Health Protection Service

MR OSBORNE: My question is to the Minister for Health and Community Care. Minister, the ACT Health Protection Service is currently structured around five programs - drugs and therapeutics; food safety and compliance; applied environmental health; communicable disease control; and operation and support services. Last year, the Oceania health consulting group undertook a review of the Health Protection Service, and it provided your department with a discussion paper last month. Mr Moore, will you provide an update on the progress of this report, and will you confirm that among its recommendations is a proposal to sack our health inspectors and outsource their positions, as I believe happened in Victoria, even though the restructuring of the service does not produce any recognisable cost savings?

MR MOORE: Thank you, Mr Osborne, for the question. Yes, the Health Protection Service has been reviewed and I have had a look at that review. I have not at this stage made any final decision on it. Indeed, in looking at the restructure of the Health Protection Service I have, in conjunction with the department, put the review out to discussion so that people who are affected have an opportunity to comment on the program. One of the recommendations of that review was the possibility in some areas of outsourcing services, but no decision has been made to carry on with any outsourcing at all. As you would know, Mr Osborne, I have an approach where I will not rule out any possibilities under such circumstances. But I would have to see some very significant benefits before I would adopt that kind of approach. It was clear that that area of the department did need a review of its structure and, from the time I became Minister for Health, I have been concerned with the way the system works and the way it is set out.

I should add perhaps, to clarify it completely, that when I looked at the review I also had a briefing from the person doing the review, so I was able to ask questions about why it was that certain recommendations were made. But the most important thing, I think, is for us to work in a collaborative way with people who are affected by such a review. Whenever that happens, Mr Osborne, people are concerned about their jobs, so that it is important that we work with them and work through the issues with them. At the same time, we want to do it in a reasonably quick way so that they do not feel that there is a cloud hanging over them. It is appropriate to find a balance when we are talking about the way people work.

It is also appropriate that we should be doing that because this group, which is currently in a series of different locations, is going to be co-located at the former Holder High School site in what has been named the Howard Florey Building. That will mean that in some areas where we currently have two or three administrations it will be appropriate to have a single administration. One would hope that we could gain some administrative efficiency in that way so that we can improve service delivery, because that is what we are on about.

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