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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 8 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 3018 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

question time at 3.15 pm. If there are questions directed to Mr Corbell in any of his capacities, I would suggest to members that they may wish to ask those questions before 3.15 pm; otherwise I will take them.

Questions without notice

Hospital waiting lists

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, to comply: my question is for the Minister for Health. Mr Corbell, I am in receipt of a letter from a leading Canberra orthopaedic surgeon whom I will not name as it may identify the patient concerned. I understand that the minister may also have a copy of the letter. The letter describes the plight of a patient needing a reconstruction who is classified as category 2, with a priority marking, at the Calvary Hospital. As at 4 August 2003, the date of the letter, this patient has been waiting since 11 April 2002, a wait of 480 days. The letter goes on to say that the surgeon's waiting time for his patients on his list at Calvary is 21/2 years, that is, 902 days.

Minister, the ACT Health website, which has figures for February, lists category 2 patients as waiting an average of 136 days. Minister, not only is the website hopelessly out of date, it is clearly misleading. When will you start supplying the people of Canberra with up-to-date and accurate waiting time information?

MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, I do it every month. I know because Mr Smyth responds to it every month; so, yes. I understand the website is in the process of being updated. But Mr Smyth would be aware that the government releases waiting list information every month, and I know he is aware of that because he puts out a press release every month as well.

But while we are talking about waiting lists and access to elective surgery, it is worth making the point that Mr Smyth seems to be wanting to use access to elective surgery as a key indicator of the performance of the ACT public health system. Mr Speaker, I would like to read a quote to you which I think puts the issue in some perspective:

Many people wrongly judge the performance of the public hospital system simply on its ability to deal with elective surgery as reflected by the emphasis on elective surgery waiting times. In reality the real measure of the success of a public hospital is its ability to deal with emergencies; those patients where treatment is urgent and important. On that measure the ACT has a high performing health and hospital system.

I couldn't agree more. Indeed, I just wonder whether Mr Smyth agreed with it when he was in government because they're exactly the words of his health minister, Mr Michael Moore, when Mr Smyth was a minister of the last ACT government.

MR SMYTH: A supplementary question, Mr Speaker. Minister, I accept what you've said from Mr Moore, but Mr Moore also said that waiting lists were such a measure as well, although he preferred to use the wait times. But why do you persist in hiding the true state of elective surgery in Canberra behind spurious rhetoric, as we have just heard, Orwellian doublespeak and misinformation?

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