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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 2890 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

a choice as to how and where they deliver their babies. It is also a really good way of reducing adverse events, basically, in birthing. I think that the evidence has been there for quite some time that midwife-led care has very good results in terms of there being very few adverse events.

Another area in which there is significant work to draw on and to which our health services are moving in some situations is adverse events. It is an area in which the medical indemnity issue crosses over with better health outcomes. Research has pointed to the importance of having full disclosure by health professionals when things do go wrong. People really appreciate getting a frank explanation of what occurred, a genuine apology where appropriate, and reassurance that causes will be addressed to ensure as much as possible that such incidents do not recur.

I am aware that there is work going on in this area. The open disclosure project is progressing at a national level. I hope that this government will ensure that the ACT will be quick to pick up the recommendations. Similarly, the ACT consumer feedback standards project is working at the grassroots level to ensure that feedback from health care consumers informs service standards. It will run for another 12 months, with draft standards being trialed in Calvary, the Canberra Hospital and Community Care, which is a positive move.

At the health summit and previously in many other forums we heard about the importance of genuinely putting consumers-that is, people, citizens, patients-at the core of health service, but this activity can be and has been undermined by activity at another level. The government's response to recent media reports on the death of Mental Health Services clients demonstrates how we still have quite a way to go there. For senior officers to say, in effect, that there was really nothing wrong in ACT Mental Health Services, that anything that needed to be fixed had been, that the fact is that people die and that is to be expected was not a good or respectful response.

There has been no shortage of people contacting my office with the view that Mental Health Services were not taking sufficient care of their clients, did not seriously address the concerns of families and friends, were not committed to addressing problems of process and procedure, were not committed to reassuring vulnerable families and patients that such problems were being addressed, and were not convinced in any way that their views and experiences were valued.

For government not only to ignore or dismiss these concerns, but also to deny that there were any problems for people facing inquests of two years, that the problems that conceivably contributed to the death of a loved one might remain unaddressed for two years and their distress and vulnerability would remain unresolved for two years, and that the hospital was less than forthcoming when relevant information at every stage of the process was exaggerated and attenuated certainly undermined any sense of partnership with some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

These concerns also point clearly to how consumer interests and feedback should be at the heart of designing programs and individuals' health care. This is not only about setting up consumer boards, but also about having clear ways to hear feedback and a system which really does welcome the feedback, including criticism, takes it seriously and addresses the problems.

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