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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 5 Hansard (6 May) . . Page.. 1498 ..


Canberra Hospital - Surgical Operations

MR RUGENDYKE: I apologise to the Leader of the Opposition if I have broken any convention or protocol. My question, Mr Speaker, is to the Health Minister, Mr Moore. I must say that I advised Mr Moore earlier today that I would be asking a question along these lines. Minister, I understand that a patient at the Canberra Hospital under the care of a staff specialist was, in fact, operated upon by a visiting medical officer although there had not been consent given to that surgeon to operate on the patient. Could you please explain what has occurred to this patient and what action has been taken to deal with the surgeon?

MR MOORE: I thank Mr Rugendyke for the question, particularly for giving me some notice of it. Let me say at the start of my answer, Mr Rugendyke, that you are not breaking any convention at all by taking the first question. It happened regularly in previous Assemblies that I would, Ms Tucker would and Mr Osborne would take the first question. I think the particular issue that you are talking about is a very serious issue and I thank you for giving me the time to explore it. I need to give a bit of background in the first place, Mr Speaker.

In order to speed up the waiting times of patients booked for surgery at Canberra Hospital, the hospital is undertaking the process of reviewing whether any patients currently booked in under one surgeon can appropriately be treated faster by different surgeons. It should be noted that public patients are not the property of any particular surgeon. They are booked in at a public hospital and it is perfectly proper for the hospital to arrange for them to be treated by a different specialist. Conversely, public patients do not, in fact, have any ability to insist on treatment by a particular surgeon.

In accordance with this policy, all long-wait category two patients on a certain visiting medical officer's list were reviewed in March 1999. Several of these patients were asked if they would be happy for their operations to be performed by a hospital staff specialist, as the surgery would be performed within the next six weeks. All agreed. One such patient, classified as category two, was last seen by the visiting medical officer in September 1997. It should be noted that a patient classified as category two should optimally receive surgery within 90 days. The patient concerned had an initial diagnosis of phimosis and penile warts. He attended a preadmission clinic appointment with a staff specialist on 21 April 1999. A provisional diagnosis of a large penile cancer was made, subject to a wedge resection being performed.

The patient was admitted to the hospital on 23 April 1999 under the care of the staff specialist. A wedge resection was performed on 24 April 1999 which confirmed the provisional diagnosis. The staff specialist discussed the result and the pending surgery with the patient and his family. At all times the patient remained under the care of the staff specialist. A consent form for the surgical operation was signed by a registrar and the patient. The procedure had been explained by the staff specialist, and this fact was stated on the consent form.

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