Page 451 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 13 February 2013
wanted it to see with low-acuity illnesses or injury—means it is providing a service, and a free service when we are looking at some of the issues people have in access to health care in the ACT.
Overall, I think the approach we are taking is the right one. I am not pretending there are not real difficulties ahead in terms of meeting timeliness, but at the same time as we meet timeliness and focus on timeliness, let us look at quality of service, which is always very high, and let us look at the lives that are saved. Let us have that as part of the narrative—the work that is done. Let us also make sure it is a hospital-wide solution. That is the work before me. That is the work that has already started, and change comes slowly in health. You cannot go in there and just bang your fist on the table and expect things to change. You have to work with clinicians, and that is what we are doing. Over time, if we can shift the focus off the emergency department and shift the focus across the hospital about what is happening to support the work in the emergency department, we will see timeliness improve.
We will be supporting the motion with an amendment moved by Mr Rattenbury. It acknowledges that I have already asked the Auditor-General to come out within 12 months and review progress. How she chooses to conduct that and the scope of that audit is entirely up to her. I understand she has that as a potential review on her audit work ahead of her. I will provide the plan to improve access to the emergency department in March this year. That will be a hospital-wide plan, as I have outlined in the motion today.
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (11.19): I thank Mr Hanson for raising the issue today because it is one of considerable interest in the community. I think that overall the service and treatment that patients receive in our hospitals are excellent. The majority of people who need emergency treatment are dealt with efficiently and with great care. I note that the first part of Mr Hanson’s motion acknowledges the outstanding work of the staff in the hospital and, I think implicitly, the dedication with which they approach what is often a very difficult task. The Greens acknowledge that emergency department waiting times is an issue that needs to be looked at. The report on government services released last week shows that Canberra hospitals have the longest emergency department waiting times in Australia. As I said, that is a matter of public concern.
Although I recognise the concerns behind Mr Hanson’s motion today, I do not support all of the action that he calls for. The Auditor-General’s Office is certainly a good organisation to analyse and assess many problems with government activities. However, I do not believe that in this instance it is the right step at this stage if we want to truly address the problem. The Auditor-General is, of course, our central review agency to ensure probity in government action and it was appropriate that the issues concerning the accuracy of the data were considered by the Auditor-General.
My amendment notes that the government has requested that the Auditor-General review the progress on implementing improvements to the emergency department performance information and we await the report of the review. I recognise that this