Page 2086 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 21 June 2011

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Hospitals—elective surgery

MR SMYTH: My question is to the Minister for Health. Minister, on 22 June 2010 you stated to the Assembly in regard to elective surgery waiting lists:

… there has never been any evidence to say that the data collection processes have ever been doctored or tampered with to deliver some unknown benefit.

However, the subsequent Auditor General’s report on elective surgery stated:

… in 2009-10, 250 patients in Category 1 were reclassified and a significant number of these reclassifications (97 percent) occurred without documented clinical reasons;

Minister, given your newly stated focus on accountability, will you be accountable for these reclassifications of elective surgery patients?

MS GALLAGHER: Will I be accountable for the recategorisation of elective surgery patients? I cannot recategorise elective surgery patients, Mr Smyth. It is not a decision that fits within my scope of responsibilities.

Mr Smyth: Are you responsible for what happened? Are you responsible for the process?

MS GALLAGHER: Mr Smyth, I think the Auditor-General identified a number of areas where information and record keeping could improve around management of the elective surgery waiting lists. Some of those are in the Health Directorate’s control; some of them are in private surgeons’ control; and some of it falls within the control of staff that work in the surgical booking unit, around recording data entry. My job as minister is to make sure that we ensure that there are processes in place that respond to all of those areas where we have agreed with the Auditor-General’s report. Indeed, I think I am providing the government’s response to that during this sitting period. But I do not think you can say that the Auditor-General found any evidence where doctoring of the lists was happening for some sort of unknown benefit or gain. The Auditor-General did not find that, and the comments I made remain.

Mr Smyth: You are responsible for the process.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Smyth, you can now ask your supplementary.

MR SMYTH: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Minister, how will your new focus on transparency help those elective surgery patients that were reclassified without documented clinical reasons?

MS GALLAGHER: The government has already implemented processes to ensure that there is not recategorisation of patients without documented clinical reasons. This has not made everybody very happy. Indeed, it has put some additional responsibilities on the doctors who are responsible for that. For the surgical booking staff, it has meant that they have had to have some further training around how they record data. Indeed, the application for recategorisation of patients has changed. The

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