Page 4581 - Week 12 - Thursday, 15 October 2009

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back and have a look at how much surgery was being done in 2001. It would be well under 5,000 procedures, I would imagine, but I will check the record on that. Throughput is something the government can control; that is, we increase access to surgery, and that is what we have done. We are doing more than 10,000 procedures a year. That is up, I think, from 2005, when it was around 7,600. There has been significant growth in output of elective surgery in this community. But we have some constraints. We have a limited private system. We have a busy tertiary referral hospital and, on every day, 50 per cent of its work is emergency work. There are some constraints, Mrs Dunne, in terms of how we can manage our elective surgery.

For example, we do not have elective surgery centres, which other larger jurisdictions are able to have, where they can quarantine their elective surgery throughput, where it is not affected by emergency work. That is an option that is not available to people here in the ACT, and it will not be. I did examine the possibility of building an elective surgery centre, but it is just not possible because we would not be able to sustain a third intensive care unit and all that goes along with that.

What are we doing? We are doing all of those things, Mrs Dunne, and I will not take the focus off the long-wait patients. I could make those figures look much better for the Liberals for next year. It probably would not make the Liberals feel good because they only feel good about bad news for the community. They never feel good about good news for the community. But those figures could be turned around in one year.

Mr Hanson: Mr Speaker, under standing order 42, could you ask the minister to address her response through you rather than through the crossbench.

MR SPEAKER: Rather than Ms Hunter.

MS GALLAGHER: There are some limitations, but we have done whatever we can do to improve throughput in elective surgery. We can clearly demonstrate that through the numbers that have been put through, but there are some waits. I could change that next year. But the way to change it would be the wrong thing to do in terms of a broader public policy response. The way to change it would be to make everybody who has been on the list for long to wait on the list and remove all the short-wait patients. That would improve the median waiting time.

MR SPEAKER: Mrs Dunne, a supplementary question?

MRS DUNNE: Minister, given the long list of concerns raised by the medical profession and the AMA report yesterday, is this an important reason why you cannot attract and retain doctors in the ACT?

MS GALLAGHER: What a load of rubbish that is. You have absolutely no evidence to support that claim at all. We have employed hundreds of staff specialists in the ACT. We fill positions quicker than they have ever been filled before. Part of the reason for that is the fact that we have a 10-year plan to rebuild our health system that we are committed to and doctors can see that. The other reason is the ANU medical school and the fact that that is attracting specialists here because they can undertake some research work along with their clinical duties. The premise of the question is absolutely incorrect.

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