Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 3305 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
(1) make available to Members on the 21st of each month, and table the next sitting day, the waiting list figures for the previous month for elective surgery in Canberra's public hospitals;
(2) include information on the waiting lists and waiting times broken down by speciality;
(3) ensure that the waiting lists and times published on the Health Department website are updated on the 21st of each month; and
(4) ensure that waiting list reports contain at least as much information as was contained in the previous Liberal government's reports.
I am moving this motion today because there has been a disturbing trend since this government came to office for information on waiting lists and waiting times to be withheld from the public. Even more disturbing is the way in which this information, when it is eventually made available, is dumbed down by the government. The situation has reached the stage where the minister's media releases on the subject are no longer gilding the lily; they are way past that stage.
The minister's last media release on the subject-7 August 2003-said that those most urgently in need of elective surgery at Canberra's public hospitals continue to get excellent service, with 96 per cent of the category 1 patients being seen in the target timeframe. That is completely unacceptable. The only acceptable target is 100 per cent.
The minister tried to laugh it off by saying that the Liberals are attacking the service provided by the staff. That is not true; the service provided by the staff is excellent. What is not being provided is access for 100 per cent of the category 1 patients. That is the only acceptable target.
I remind the minister that category 1 elective surgery is to treat potentially life threatening conditions, for example, brain and aortic aneurysms. Brain aneurysms, and aortic aneurysms even more so, are potentially life threatening. They are not emergencies yet, but the potential for them to become emergencies if an aneurysm bursts is very real.
For the minister to blithely dismiss the issue of overdue category 1 patients is very dangerous. It is also potentially very expensive. I understand that the cost of repairing a brain aneurysm is around $20,000. To repair a burst brain aneurysm, providing the patient survives long enough to make it to hospital, the cost is closer to $50,000, due to the need for extensive intensive care and rehabilitation.
The latest quarterly report on health shows that only 91 per cent of category 1 patients were treated on time, 4 per cent lower than the department's target and 9 per cent lower than the only acceptable target, which must be 100 per cent. I do not know whether the overdue category 1 cases are about aneurysms, heart valve replacements, gall bladder removals or whatever. A year ago, I would have been able to tell you, but not today. The reason is simple: the minister no longer provides that level of information on the individual specialties in elective surgery.
I cannot and, more importantly, the public and those on the waiting lists themselves cannot find out what is the waiting time for each specialty is. Indeed, if one were to go to the ACT health department's website, one would easily be forgiven for thinking that the