Page 4850 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 11 November 2009

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In terms of the Greens’ position, clearly they have not done the research on this case. That was very evident from the way they structured the response to the motion and in what they put forward. I am somewhat disappointed.

There has been a lot of confusion and concern in the community about this. I have been approached by a number of constituents—not just Dr Ellis, but a number of other constituents—who are very upset about what has happened and also about how they have subsequently been treated by the ACT health system. Those constituents have used the term “cover-up”. Two constituents individually used that term to describe how they feel that they have been treated in the circumstances.

The disease of tuberculosis is an insidious disease. It is infectious, particularly when you are exposed in confined spaces for protracted periods. That is why the focus of my motion, the focus of this issue, is the concern about partners staying in shared rooms, and the policies and procedures around that, both systemically and also as to what happened in a particular case.

In particular, I note that the disease is extremely prevalent in children who are one year or under. They face a greater risk of infection. And of course the side-effects of the treatment for young babies is not nice and the ability to test them is very erratic at best. The concerns that we have are not about screening or whether people get exposed in a shopping centre scenario. This is about procedures around partners staying in postnatal wards and who has been exposed. It is about information management after this event—who has said what and why there seems to be so much confusion. There has been limited information provided by the minister. I wish that she would clarify the position and make sure that the facts in this case, without naming individuals, get put on the table.

In terms of the position, it is clear that the chief medical officer, Charles Guest, and the minister were at odds. There was a breakdown in communication. If there is a breakdown in communication between the Chief Health Officer and the minister, it does not give us much assurance that communication with the individuals concerned or the broader public is going to be as clear.

The question is: what is going on? The situation does need to be clarified. What are the procedures? Were there any breaches? Is it being investigated? Should it be investigated? Why isn’t it? It seems that at various stages the minister’s office has been somewhat shy in coming forward. I am somewhat disappointed by that—that she seems to hide behind her bureaucrats. Given the number of times I have seen a spokeswoman for the minister when it is bad news, it is starting to become somewhat tiresome.

We also have other reports. I do not think that we have necessarily heard the end of this. There are reports of a father who was not allowed to stay in a shared ward. My understanding of the policies, although they are a little confused, is that you stay in a shared ward only if there is a particular reason to do so, if there is support required, as in the case of a stillborn. They are basically the words of Charles Guest. So why is it—we need to confirm it—that one father was allowed to stay in this case but another

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