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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 2946 ..

Questions without notice

Hospital waiting lists

MR HUMPHRIES: My question is to the Minister for Health, Mr Stanhope. Minister, last Wednesday you appeared confused over the waiting list figures for the end of July this year and you undertook to get back to the Assembly to clarify the situation. In fact, to quote your exact words, you said, "I have given both figures, I acknowledge that. I will now check it and I will respond."

It is now a week since you undertook to clarify the figures and you have not as yet done so. You have had three sitting days to clarify whether the information you gave to the Estimates Committee was correct or the figures you used in your press statement to the people of Canberra were correct; but, clearly, both cannot be correct.

Mr Stanhope, if the figures do not lie, you gave inaccurate information either to the Estimates Committee or in your press release. Which is the correct figure and why have we not had an answer so far?

MR STANHOPE: Great minds think alike. I was thinking of the same subject at the same time. I imagine that you have been just a touch distracted by Mrs Carnell's Senate campaign launch today, her NCA-sponsored Senate campaign launch. You are up against it, Gary, I must say. I am starting to fear for you, mate.

Mr Humphries: I will be here with you for a lot longer then, Jon, won't I?

MR STANHOPE: That is right. I cannot win, no matter what happens, and neither can Canberra. I regret the very slight delay in responding to this question. I do have the response for tabling today. Since Mr Humphries has asked the question again, I will actually provide the response that has been prepared for me.

As Mr Humphries said, on 21 August he did indeed ask me to explain a discrepancy in the figures I quoted regarding the number of patients on the elective surgery waiting list in our public hospitals. I took a question on notice on this matter in the Estimates Committee on 30 July. The question was: "What is the waiting list at the moment? How does this compare with last year?" My written response to that question, provided on 7 August, was:

The number of people on the elective surgery waiting list is 4054 ... This compares to 3599 people waiting at the end of July 2001.

That response took the question asked literally and the officer preparing the response found out how many people were on the waiting list at the moment the response was formulated. That means that the officer who prepared that response provided the information on 7 August, the day the response was provided. In fact, the number of people on the waiting list fluctuates, as you know, on a daily basis. Patients are removed, added, et cetera, but another reason was that an audit was also undertaken.

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