Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 01 Hansard (Tuesday, 9 February 2010) . . Page.. 71 ..
I know that Mr Hanson thinks, in his ideas paper or discussion paper, that that is clearly something that can easily be done. It is not. Nothing in health is easy to just do. You just change something and do that? That is not the way forward.
In terms of elective surgery, we will continue to look at where we can improve our service. We will continue to do it. We have seen continued improvement; we have seen long waits on the lists reduced. We get almost 100 per cent of our emergency work and almost 100 per cent of our category 1s through the door in the time that is required. That is a really good result for a system that is under pressure.
MR SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mr Coe?
MR COE: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Minister, the report indicates that 10.3 per cent of patients wait longer than 365 days for surgery, which is the highest proportion of any jurisdiction. Why does the ACT perform so poorly against this measure?
MS GALLAGHER: If you look at the work coming through the hospital you will see that the category 1 patients continue to grow. The emergency work continues to grow. What that means is that when you have urgent and emergency work coming through, people who have less urgent conditions that require surgery within 12 months have to wait. There is not an easy solution to that in a jurisdiction where there are only two public hospitals, where our utilisation of the public system is the highest in the country, the lowest utilisation of private health insurance, despite the highest coverage. You are not going to change that easily. What it means to me is that the most urgent cases, where we have seen significant rises in those categories of patients, are being seen and are being seen on time but, unfortunately, that means less urgent patients have to wait. That is where that indicator comes from. If you did a snapshot of a two-hospital town of a jurisdiction this size, my guess is that you would find the same result within any other jurisdiction.
MR SPEAKER: Mr Hanson, a supplementary?
MR HANSON: Minister, why is it that, after eight years of this ACT Labor government, the median waiting time for elective surgery has deteriorated from what was 40 days when you took office to 72 days now, the longest wait in Australia?
MS GALLAGHER: I thank Mr Hanson for the question. I think I have outlined the reasons why. The reason the opposition fail to grasp the answer is that 11,337 people were added to the elective surgery waiting list in 2007-08 and almost all of them were removed. They keep coming back because, Mr Smyth, demand continues to grow. For someone who says they understand these things—
Mr Hanson: Why are we the worst in Australia?
MS GALLAGHER: Because what you were dealing with back in 1999 is history. We have seen massive growth in demand for elective surgery, growth that in your system, under your control, would have meant that the system crumbled. If you, in government, had seen the growth that we have seen, your system would have collapsed.