Page 1036 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 16 March 2005

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declined. In 2003-04, it was 67,213. This year, the target is only 64,981, a drop of 2,232. The revised target—surprise, surprise, Mr Speaker—remains at 64,981. If we are doing more, as the minister has suggested that we are doing, then why haven’t these targets been adjusted? The reality is that the number of cost-weighted inpatient separations is not going up.

We had opportunity in the estimates hearing last Friday to ask the minister about his claims that the number of surgeries is going up, and it is interesting that the minister uses surgeries instead of cost-weighted separations.

Mrs Burke: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: there is audible noise in the gallery. I am glad the Chief Minister and backbenchers have found this so amusing.

Mr Stanhope: No, we find it irrelevant, not amusing.

Mrs Burke: No, you were laughing.

MR SPEAKER: Order! Please reduce the amount of conversation going on in the chamber. Mr Smyth has the floor.

MR SMYTH: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and thank you, Mrs Burke, for the support. We asked the minister if it is true, if there is more surgery, why is the number forecast down; to which the minister said; “You have to understand that we have shifted the oncology numbers out of the inpatient and put them into the occasions of outpatient services, and that is why the number has actually gone down,” which is quite interesting, because, when you go to the next line on page 60 of the second approp bill, the number of cost-weighted occasions of outpatient service has gone down as well. So we have actually transferred a service out of the inpatients into the outpatients, and the outpatients has gone down as well. In the year 2003-04, the audited outcome was for 242,031 occasions of outpatient service.

What is the minister’s target, remembering that oncology services have been transferred into it so that it should have gone up, you would have thought? Mr Speaker, the target for 2004-05 is only 235,000 occasions of service or 7,031 cost-weighted occasions of outpatient service fewer. The minister said, “We are doing more,” so you would expect the 2004-05 revised target to be increased. Has it? No, it has not. So the minister is caught between a rock and a hard place. He puts out numbers, makes a claim but cannot verify it. The drop of 2,232 on the outcome for 2003-04, I think, is appalling. Given that each cost-weighted separation costs, according to the chief executive of Health, approximately $4,000, that makes this drop worth $8.9 million less service.

What is the other claim we have had consistently from this minister? “We are spending more.” But we find $8.9 million, just like that, gone. So much for the government’s propaganda about the amount of money being poured into hospitals. The question is: does this reduced target mean that $8.9 million has been cut from the department or has it been cut from the hospital and is being soaked up by the department? That is the question. Does this mean that the department continues to soak up immense amounts of money better spent on the clinical side?

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