Page 763 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 29 March 2006

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MR CORBELL: I am happy to take Mrs Burke’s question. In relation to the letter in the Canberra Times today that Mrs Burke refers to, I am pleased to be able to advise the Assembly of the following points.

The person involved, Ms Barbara Daniel, was transferred by ambulance from Braidwood on Sunday, 19 February this year with fractures of the arm. Ms Daniel was treated in the emergency department of the Canberra Hospital and booked for theatre at 8.30 the following morning, 20 February. Regrettably this period was an unusually busy period for the theatres, and for this reason Ms Daniel’s operation was delayed by the treatment of 46 other patients whose clinical conditions indicated that they were a higher priority. They included a number of neonatal cases and a number of children.

Notwithstanding the delay, Ms Daniel received appropriate care and was admitted to the orthopaedic ward at the Canberra Hospital at 1.20 pm on 20 February, the day after her admission. She received appropriate pain relief and nursing care. On 22 February Ms Daniel was reprioritised by the orthopaedic surgeon and priority was given to other more urgent cases. I am advised that the operation was completed successfully at 12.10 pm on 23 February.

It is worth reminding members that access to the emergency operating theatre is based on clinical need, and a five-point urgency classification scale is used. Category 1 is, of course, immediate. Category 2 is within two hours. Category 3 is within six hours. Category 4 is within 24 hours. Category 5 is over 24 hours, or is regarded as subacute.

Funding is not the issue, as suggested in Ms Daniel’s letter. One emergency and one orthopaedic non-elective theatre were available over the period that Ms Daniel was waiting and additional staff are called in on overtime whenever emergency cases require immediate surgery.

The emergency theatre is available 24 hours a day. However, after 9 pm its use is limited to patients in categories 1, 2 and 3. Unless a patient’s condition is life threatening, cases are not booked after nine of an evening. This is not about funding. It is about patient safety. Management decisions around additional theatre sessions and after-hours arrangements take into consideration patient safety, staff availability and occupational health and safety issues, including safe working hours for staff and surgeons. Those are the facts of the matter.

MRS BURKE: I ask a supplementary question. Minister, is this situation leading to long delays in the provision of orthopaedic surgery? Why is it that patients such as this one are waiting four or five days for orthopaedic surgery?

MR CORBELL: No, and I have answered the other part of Mrs Burke’s question.

Therapy ACT—northside service

MS PORTER: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services. Minister, I notice that you opened a new Therapy ACT northside service last week. Can you inform the Assembly about the new service?

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