Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 01 Hansard (Tuesday, 7 December 2004) . . Page.. 59 ..
Hospital waiting lists
MRS BURKE: Mr Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister for Health. Minister, I refer to the Auditor-General’s performance audit on waiting lists. Ideally, patients should wait no more than a year for category 3 elective surgery. However, the Auditor-General revealed that, as of 30 June 2004, one patient had been waiting 1,785 days, or nearly five years. Why had this person been waiting nearly five years for elective surgery?
MR CORBELL: I thank Mrs Burke for the question. I will have to check the details of that individual’s case, but I think it is worth, in general terms, putting on the record that there can be a range of reasons why someone is waiting for surgery. Not only can they involve, obviously, the very high demand for a particular type of surgery and/or the availability of the necessary specialists but also other factors that are beyond the government’s control, for example, whether or not the patient is ready for care; whether they are physically well enough, even with their illness, to undergo surgery; whether they have, themselves, chosen to decline surgery on a number of occasions; or whether they are seeking surgery only by a particular surgeon and are not prepared to contemplate surgery by other surgeons.
I do not know whether or not that is the case in this circumstance and I am happy to provide further information to Mrs Burke in that regard. But there is a range of reasons why someone will wait longer than necessary for their surgery—some of them within the control of the territory and others outside it.
We have in place an effective waiting list management policy which makes it very clear how someone is categorised and counted in respect of the length of time they have waited, depending on their individual circumstances—whether they have initiated postponement or whether the postponement has been system initiated. For those reasons, the government has taken steps to establish a waiting list management policy. That is entirely what is needed to help make sure we measure waiting times accurately and in a consistent way. I will provide further details to Mrs Burke on the particular instance she cites from the Auditor-General’s report.
MRS BURKE: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. I thank the minister for that answer. In his advice, will the minister please advise whether the patient has now received elective surgery or if indeed they are still waiting. If he could clear that up, that would be good.
MR CORBELL: Subject to privacy issues around the individual patient, I am extremely happy to provide that information.
MR STEFANIAK: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Attorney-General. Attorney, on 6 May 1999 you made the following statement in this place:
When making decisions about whether the laws of parliament are properly observed, whether people should be prosecuted and a range of other issues going to