Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 14 Hansard (Wednesday, 18 November 2009) . . Page.. 5201 ..
MS HUNTER: Taking mental health, for example, we do support small and specialist non-government mental health services having ownership—
MADAM ASSISTANT SPEAKER: Excuse me again, Ms Hunter. Members of the opposition! I cannot hear Ms Hunter. Ms Hunter, please continue.
MS HUNTER: Thank you, Madam Assistant Speaker. Taking mental health, for example, we do support small and specialist non-government mental health services having ownership of their specialist and peer-focused facilities. I would also note, for example, that if the government were proposing to hand over a third of public housing to a non-government organisation we would probably have major problems with that.
The Greens recognise the structural deficiencies that exist where public and private hospitals operate within the one facility. Our health dollars are precious and already they total some $1 billion annually in the ACT. Yet we are in a situation where those dollars were inadvertently cross-subsidising private health care at Calvary Public Hospital. The ACT Auditor-General’s 2008 report on the management of Calvary hospital agreements found that the territory’s financial interests were not being protected through the existing structure. There are a number of examples where major cross-charge calculations by Calvary Health Care featured omissions and incorrect charges. Unfortunately, Calvary Health Care often disputed claims of underpayments and subsequent discussions with ACT Health led to agreed, often lower, amounts being repaid.
The Greens do not question in any way the commitment that the Little Company of Mary has to providing quality healthcare services, including palliative care services, in the ACT and indeed around Australia. Nor do we question its experience. We appreciate that when a person is experiencing or witnessing the dying process many of their spiritual needs often become extremely important. The ability to provide caring and quality palliative care services that incorporate a client’s unique spiritual needs is of vital importance.
We question the appropriateness of an organisation that is not government directed and fully accountable to the people to have such an influence on where and how public health services are delivered. While we respect the need for each health specialist to be able to determine what services they are personally willing to engage in, it is not appropriate for a large section of public healthcare services in the ACT to be limited to one particular organisation’s ideology. With respect to palliative care, we do not wish to see non-Catholic patients in a public palliative care system having to make decisions about their health care and being limited to utilising a Catholic ethical model if that is not what is appropriate for them.
A final matter that I have quite a number of concerns about relates to industrial relations matters and staff at Clare Holland House. I would argue that it is the staff of a health facility that makes it what it is. Clare Holland House has been described as a jewel in Canberra’s health system, but if staff choose to leave the hospice after its sale the loss of such experience and insight into this specialist service cannot be easily replaced.