Page 2274 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 22 June 2011

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There is more work to be done. The signs are promising. The targets are set. They are ambitious. But I am very keen on actually improving access to elective surgery and delivering those targets. Again, as part of the transparency and openness of government, we will be updating the community and, indeed, the Assembly in six months time.

MR SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mr Smyth?

MR SMYTH: Minister, for category 1 patients, the most urgent patients, they are waiting one day longer than the same period last year. Based on your stated measures of success, why have you failed category 1 patients?

MS GALLAGHER: I am not sure what figure Mr Smyth is using. My understanding is that for the first 11 months of this year our target for category 1 patients being seen on time is 91 per cent, which is just below the target of 95 per cent under the national access program. Under the national access program we have a commitment to see 95 per cent of category 1 patients on time. This is a target that we have signed up to and it is one that we will meet.

But, yes, there are challenges in managing this, Mr Speaker. Sometimes category 1 patients, for a number of reasons, are not able to be seen in 30 days, and that sometimes is down to surgeon availability. It is sometimes down to patient availability. It is sometimes about the availability of other surgeons and beds within the hospital. But it is at 91 per cent now. I believe we can reach the target of 95 per cent.

MR HARGREAVES: A supplementary.

MR SPEAKER: Yes, Mr Hargreaves.

MR HARGREAVES: Thanks very much, Mr Speaker. Minister for Health, do you believe that the occasions of elective surgery services are as valid an indicator as perhaps a waiting list may be?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Mr Hargreaves for the question. Absolutely; throughput is the critical indicator here. Back in 2001, a year that Mr Smyth likes to reminisce about, they did about 6,800 procedures. This year we will do 10,700 procedures—more than 4,000 more operations per year that our hospitals are dealing with. Next year we will exceed 11,000 operations, with the extra money that we have put in the budget. So, yes, throughput is part of the challenge. Obviously we cannot get to a zero waiting list position because we do not necessarily want to drive demand or drive out the private health system from this market. But we do need to manage our waiting list in line with the targets that I have set, and indeed that we have agreed to with the commonwealth.

I think that enormous effort has gone into this by our staff at the hospitals, at both Canberra and at Calvary Public Hospital, to deliver what needs to be delivered to this community. It does involve millions of dollars. Just 300 operations is more than three million extra dollars a year, and it is an expensive business. So we do always have to

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