Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 06 Hansard (Tuesday, 22 June 2010) . . Page.. 2137 ..
MR SMYTH: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Minister, if to the best of your knowledge there has never ever been any evidence then why would this doctor make this claim if it were not true?
MS GALLAGHER: Mr Smyth will have to ask Dr Peter Hughes that question. I am not in a position to answer.
MR DOSZPOT: My question is to the Minister for Health. Minister, one of the Canberrans waiting for surgery has alleged that he was informed by ACT Health that anyone not operated on in the prescribed 30-day time frame is downgraded. Minister, have you investigated if these claims are correct and, if so, what actions have you taken or plan to take over this issue?
MS GALLAGHER: As I said, I read the brief from my department this morning. The staff involved do not agree with that recollection of events, that that is what was said. Obviously I will need to speak further with my department. I have visited the surgical bookings area within the hospital and I know the staff that work there. They are extremely professional. They know their job. In terms of communicating with patients, I think they are probably one of the better performing areas across the hospital. I know that if they have misled or someone has misunderstood what they have said that they would be very upset about that. I am certainly going to follow up the concerns that have been raised. From my knowledge of the people that work in that area, it would seem an unlikely thing for staff in that area to say.
MR SPEAKER: Mr Doszpot, a supplementary?
MR DOSZPOT: Minister, have you been informed or have you investigated at any stage in the past whether this practice of downgrading patients has been occurring within the health system?
MS GALLAGHER: It has never, ever, as I can recall, been raised with me as a problem. I have certainly had a number of briefings with the department around the decisions that are taken, who is the decision maker. Only doctors can change the category of a patient on the waiting list; nobody else can do it. So it is based on their clinical assessment, and at times if their clinical assessment is that that patient is no longer a category 1 and is a category 2A that is the process that is followed in order to make those changes.
Admin staff, health public servants, are not able to do that in accordance with the health policy guidelines. But I have on a number of times—
Mr Hanson: It happened in David Wentworth’s case.
MS GALLAGHER: I have never had a case brought to my attention or any evidence to say that the process that is in place, which has doctors making those decisions, has not been followed.