Page 3552 - Week 11 - Thursday, 22 September 2005
that in my most recent statement to the Assembly on improvement to access I outlined a range of strategies that are continuing to be adopted to address these issues.
I think the real issue here is that we have the Leader of the Opposition again making the hysterical claim that people’s lives are being put at risk. On each occasion that he has made this assertion over the past 24 hours or so he has been in no position to back it up. I think it is incumbent on the Leader of the Opposition that if he is going to make such an hysterical and scaremongering claim he backs it up with some sort of substantiation. Anything else is simply an attempt to undermine public confidence in the public hospital system. I am quite happy to have a rigorous debate about health services in this place but I am not happy about the claim that people’s lives are being put at risk when Mr Smyth can in no way substantiate the claim. It is a shameful act, it is an irresponsible act and it is one in respect of which he should be asked to either put up or shut up.
In relation to the occurrences of bypass or load sharing at our public hospitals in the past number of months, it is worth making the point that just for the month of August, for example, the total number of hours during which the Canberra Hospital emergency department was on bypass was only three per cent of the total number of hours that the public hospital emergency department was open—for three per cent out of all the hours that it operated in that month of August the hospital was on bypass.
Load sharing or bypass is an entirely normal and appropriate mechanism to share the load when things get busy. What would Mr Smyth have us do—tell people to wait outside the door because they cannot be seen at Canberra but they can be seen at Calvary? What an absurd suggestion that is. What happens is that when Canberra Hospital or Calvary Hospital get busy, the other hospital takes the load. People are not turned away. People are not refused treatment. People get the treatment they need when they need it in accordance with the normal triage arrangements.
We have heard the claim from Mr Smyth over the past 24 hours or so that people’s lives are being put at risk. I note that whenever he is pushed on that by a journalist, as he was this morning on ABC radio, he quickly retreats and that shows he cannot substantiate the claim, he cannot make the argument, he is only scaremongering, he is only undermining public confidence in the public hospital system. It shows how desperate he is as shadow Minister for Health that he has to resort to the age old but completely unreliable and unsubstantiated claim that people’s lives are being put at risk. What a lot of nonsense.
MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. It is interesting to note that three per cent of one month is, of course, a full day.
MR SPEAKER: Come to the question, please, Mr Smyth.
MR SMYTH: Minister, how many individual patients were directly affected by the 52 bypasses in our hospital system as at the end of August this year?
MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, I will take the question on notice.