Page 1426 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 6 April 2005

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are working extremely closely on. My comments were entirely consistent with the information released in the bulletin that Mr Mulcahy refers to.

Hospitals—neonatal transfers

MR SESELJA: My question is to the Minister for Health. On 30 March, a young woman from Quakers Hill gave birth to a baby boy in the neonatal unit of the Canberra Hospital. You have stated in relation to the case:

When the demand is high in one city and the [Canberra Hospital] is able to, we receive patients. When demand is high here, we transfer patients to other members of the network.

How often since 2002 have women had to travel interstate from Canberra to give birth to children because our neonatal unit has been full?

MR CORBELL: I do not have that information with me to give off the top of my head, but I am happy to take it on notice. I should make the point, of course, that Canberra Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit is a regional unit. It services our region and we receive babies from as far away as Wagga, Cowra, all the way down to the Victorian border, Eden, and many other places in between. That is the role of the neonatal intensive care unit at the Canberra Hospital. It does participate as part of the network and, obviously, you cannot plan whom you are going to get into your unit. If one unit is facing pressures, patients are transferred to another unit. The alternative, of course, is that you do not transfer them to another unit, and that is completely unacceptable. You transfer them to where they can get the care they need. That is what happened in relation to the mother from Sydney.

Some of the ways that was handled, in terms of ambulance transfer, perhaps should have been reconsidered, because that probably was not the most appropriate way to manage her transfer. I think a helicopter transfer would have been far more appropriate. But that was not a decision of ACT Health; it was a matter for New South Wales health. But, that said, it was entirely appropriate for the New South Wales health system to transfer a patient such as this expectant mother to the Canberra Hospital at that time, because that was about making sure that she and her baby got the care that they needed. That is what it is about.

In relation to the figures that Mr Seselja asked for, I am happy to make the inquiry of my department and provide those figures as soon as possible.

MR SESELJA: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker, and I am sure the minister will want to take this one on notice as well. How often has the neonatal unit been at full capacity during the same time and unable to accept more patients?

MR CORBELL: It is the same question essentially, Mr Speaker. If people have been sent interstate, they have been sent interstate because there was no capacity at the neonatal intensive care unit. So it is the same question and, as I have already indicated, I will take it on notice.

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