Page 1066 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 16 March 2005

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Hospitals—patient treatment

MR STEFANIAK: My question is to the Minister for Health. I refer to cases of in-patients in our hospital system having had surgery cancelled. You might be aware of the case of Francesco Divito, who was admitted to Canberra Hospital for surgery for a collapsed lung on 27 January this year. His surgery was cancelled six times and he had another operation fail. He finally received surgery yesterday and his family has given us authorisation to raise his case today. Minister, how many in-patients have had surgery cancelled at the Canberra Hospital and Calvary Hospital since the beginning of January 2004? What contribution is the cancellation of in-patients making to bed block in our hospital system?

MR CORBELL: The final part of Mr Stefaniak’s question, if I understood it correctly, was asking whether those cancellations were attributed to bed block.

Mr Stefaniak: What contribution is the cancellation of in-patients making to bed block?

MR CORBELL: I do not quite follow the question, Mr Speaker, but I will do my best. Cancellation of surgery can occur for a whole range of reasons. It can occur because of a more urgent case. It can occur because of emergency surgery that takes precedence over elective surgery. It can occur because of the patient not being well enough to have the surgery. It can occur because of the unavailability of staff, or a doctor, or both. There is a range of reasons for the cancellation of surgery.

In relation to the particular instance that Mr Stefaniak cites, I am not at liberty to divulge the particular circumstances of that case for patient confidentiality reasons. As I indicated in the paper this morning, however, I was concerned to hear of the number of times that that individual had had his surgery cancelled, or allegedly cancelled. I am asking for that to be investigated and for advice to be provided to me at the earliest opportunity to see what were the reasons and whether it was a case of postponement or cancellation occurring for other than clinical reasons. I am asking for that advice.

In relation to the second part of Mr Stefaniak’s question as it relates to the number of surgeries postponed or cancelled—surgery is not usually cancelled; it is postponed—I am happy to take that on notice. I am not familiar with every occasion of service in our hospital system off the top of my head, but I am very happy to take that question on notice.

MR STEFANIAK: I thank the minister for taking that on notice. He may or may not need to do so with my supplementary question, which is: how many people have died in the past 12 months while waiting for surgery?

MR CORBELL: It would appear, Mr Speaker, that the suggestion is that they have died because they were waiting for their surgery, which I find a quite obnoxious and inappropriate question. The suggestion is that people are dying waiting for surgery. Again, it is an assertion made without any evidence or without any substantiation—just throw it up there and hope that it will stick. That seems to be the tactic of the Liberal Party on this point, Mr Speaker. That, I think, is completely inappropriate.

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