Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 13 February 2008) . . Page.. 173 ..
the ground he had missed two appointments nearly three years prior, and I have, for the interest of members, written to the minister on this matter. But, minister, do you sanction this method of operation, given the VMO in question is contracted to provide services on behalf of ACT Health?
MS GALLAGHER: I am surprised, actually, to get this question because of the embarrassment that should have been caused by the media release that went out about this matter and the public spectacle that Mrs Burke tried to make about this poor person who was in desperate need of medical attention. In fact, I am now going to have to walk through the embarrassment step by step from the beginning.
A patient referred by a private GP to a private specialist is a private matter. The private specialist, based on the facts that I have been given—which is a letter from Mrs Burke—said he would not see this patient. That is the story. You are not a public patient until you enter a public hospital. GPs cannot refer a public patient. There is no such thing as a public patient unless you are in a public hospital.
Mrs Burke: Are you sure?
MS GALLAGHER: Am I sure? Am I sure? Yes, I am sure. It is quite simple: public patients are seen at public hospitals where public moneys fund public services. In the media release put out by Mrs Burke, she even admits some understanding of this by saying the patient was referred by a GP, which is a private practitioner, to a doctor with rooms in Deakin. We do not have rooms in Deakin. The public system does not have rooms in Deakin. We have rooms in Garran. They are big—they are called the Canberra Hospital. That is where your public entitlement to public services exists.
I was rather hoping that this matter would not come to the Assembly because of the level of embarrassment it should cause the opposition spokesperson, who put out a media release trying to blame the Chief Minister and me for a situation where a private patient is not seen by a private doctor. Because I felt there was an obvious need for this patient to be seen, I have undertaken a number of inquiries. This patient will be seen by the public system as a public patient by a public specialist. But let us understand here that the public system—the government—had nothing to do with this person’s refusal for treatment.
I am not even sure—in fact, I am waiting for this to be confirmed—that this specialist is a VMO and whether he offers any public services. My initial advice is that he does not. Whether or not this private specialist wanted to see this patient is a matter for him, and he declined. But to then put out a media statement saying this is because of the inflexibility of the public system and that it shows that the government is out of touch and unable to deal with situations like this is simply not true.
The moment I chased up this patient’s information, he got an appointment. This patient has an appointment within the next two weeks. Mrs Burke has made allegations around the unavailability of MRI technology. We do not even have a waiting list. In fact, I think there is only a five-day wait for MRI screens at the Canberra Hospital because of the investment this government has made by doubling the resources in the MRI area within the hospital. Precisely because of the investment we have made, this person will be seen and will be seen very quickly.