Page 4573 - Week 12 - Thursday, 15 October 2009

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Opposition members interjecting—

MR SPEAKER: Order! Stop the clock, please. Members, I expect when the minister is actually answering the question to be able to hear her.

MS GALLAGHER: Thank you, Mr Speaker. So my focus is on ensuring that we have the staff in place, employing the doctors. We have more staff specialists now than we have ever had in the health system. We have finally got back to the national average in terms of bed numbers. We are opening new services. We have a 10-year plan to build up our health system here in the ACT and we are increasing our elective surgery throughput every year and will continue to do so.

MR SPEAKER: Ms Le Couteur, a supplementary question?

MS LE COUTEUR: Has the department or the government ever done a cost-benefit analysis to work out the appropriate waiting time for elective surgery, taking into account the cost to the patient as well as the government?

MS GALLAGHER: The Department of Health does do analysis around waiting times. We are required to do that in terms of reporting to the national dataset. At the moment there are times allocated to particular categories. I know there is an argument being put forward particularly by the doctors themselves that for patients who have low urgency requirements, and they are the category that normally waits the longest, we should use early intervention and other techniques while they are waiting to ensure that their condition does not deteriorate or cause them significant harm while they are waiting. We do all that work.

That is at one end; the other end is to continue to increase our throughput, which we just have to do because demand just continues to grow. It grows faster than you can employ staff, build operating theatres and replace the beds that Mr Smyth cut out of the system. There are no simple cures for a health system. It is simply not the case. Nothing is black and white. You cannot just put in a hundred beds, because you cannot staff them, and the infrastructure we have would not support that. You cannot grow your elective surgery without growing your intensive care beds; you cannot grow your intensive care beds without growing your intensivists.

Everything is linked in the health system, and if there is any major restructure on how our system is managed, whether we put more work out to the private sector, which is also something I have looked at but which is not universally welcomed by the doctors—

Mr Seselja: Simon doesn’t like it. He is anti private health.

MS GALLAGHER: Well, Mr Seselja, doctors do not welcome that approach either. I cannot change the way we do things if I do not have the support or the preparedness of the specialists to engage with that process.

MR SPEAKER: Members, the level of interventions in the chamber today is unacceptable to the conduct of question time. I do not want to have to individually warn members, but I will if it does not quieten down in this chamber.

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