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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 3309 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

The point of all of this is that the government, on page one of its election health sheet, said that the waiting lists for elective surgery were unacceptably long. Page 10 of their full policy says that they will ensure better and more open management of the waiting lists. When those election policies were released, the waiting lists were at 3,565. The waiting lists are now at 4,274. If they were unacceptably long at 3,565, what are they now when they stand at 4,274?

The government stated in its health action plan that the management of waiting lists for elective surgery will be improved through the provision of more comprehensive information about waiting lists for elective surgery through telephone, internet and written material. As I have pointed out, the website is a dead loss, out of date and misleading, and, as Mr Corbell has conceded, the monthly data sets contain less information, not more.

The waiting list figures for July are now due; in fact, they are overdue. They would normally have been delivered on 21 August or thereabouts. I was fully expecting a dorothy dixer on the subject, but that has not happened and it is probably a bit much to hope that Mr Corbell will inform this debate with the latest figures, which, I am sure, he has. That is the point of this motion: the need for accurate and up-to-date information on waiting lists to be made available in a timely manner.

Paragraph (1) of the motion asks the government make available to members on the 21st of each month the waiting list figures for the previous month. It also asked the government to table the figures on the next sitting day, as the previous government did. That would not be particularly onerous. It certainly would be in keeping with the government's health action plan and the Liberal government managed to do it.

I remind members that the Legislative Assembly library is not a public library. We cannot accept that providing the library with these figures is making them public. (Extension of time granted.) By providing the figures to members and tabling them in the Assembly, we can ensure that the public is well informed on the subject, particularly when the website is six months out of date. Obviously, if the health system is in as much trouble as I think it is, the government will not support this part of the motion. The last thing Labor would like to have is a well-informed public.

The purpose of paragraph (2) of the motion, which calls on the government to include information on the waiting lists and waiting times broken down by speciality, is to give the public a more accurate picture of the waiting times. One of the reasons that the old report was approximately 25 pages and the new report is a mere five pages is that we no longer get this breakdown by speciality.

As I said earlier, the waiting times published are an average. The waiting times for orthopaedics, and I suspect many other specialities, is somewhat longer than the published average. The request for the provision of this extra information is not a big ask. The information is already gathered by the hospital and it is used to form part of the old waiting list data sets. It would be the work of a moment to include it in the new version of the data sets.

Paragraph (3) of the motion calls on the government to ensure that the waiting lists and times published on the health department website are updated on the 21st of each month.

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