Page 461 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 13 February 2013

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MR HANSON (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (11.53): In closing, I am disappointed that the amendment got up because it significantly weakens what we set out to achieve here, which is a comprehensive and full external review by an expert body upon our emergency departments, looking at the systems in and systems out to make sure that we have the answers that we need to improve the problem. What the amendment essentially achieves is just “let’s have a look at what the government is currently doing”. Well, we know what the government is currently doing is not working, and we know that because for the last 11 years the performance of our emergency department with regard to waiting times has deteriorated.

What we are doing, again, is just setting ourselves up for failure. We are saying, “Well, the government’s promised this is getting better; let’s believe them,” when history tells us it will not happen. That is the definition of insanity—repeatedly doing the same thing after it fails every single time. So it is disappointing that the amendment got up.

I will make a few brief remarks in closing to address some of the comments made through the debate. The minister acknowledged that there are problems with the staff and morale and the pressure they are put under because of the politicisation of the ED. I want to make the point that the reason it is criticised is that a very senior member of the staff started doctoring data to make the government look good. It is difficult in that context to blame anyone other than the government. If they are doing it to themselves as a result of the government giving out the information in dribs and drabs and not declaring honestly and openly what was happening, the government cannot blame anyone else for the politicisation, if it occurred, of the emergency department. The staff undoubtedly would have suffered there, but the accountability must go to those who were responsible and supervising and were in positions of authority for allowing these sorts of things to happen.

I thank the minister for her commitment to pass on the acknowledgement to the ED staff that they have our support, but a list of excuses really is not good enough. The admission that the staff had taken their eyes off the ball because of the ED tampering is worrying. We heard comments from the Chief Minister when this all happened: “This is just data; it doesn’t matter.” What we now find out is that it does matter and, as a result of what happened in the emergency department with the tampering, the staff took their eyes off the ball. That is something to reflect on as we move forward with our EDs.

The minister also made a comment that it is only the less urgent cases that are waiting longer. I make the point that that is not the case. In fact, the urgent category has declined to 42 per cent, the lowest level in the ACT’s history and one of the worst across the nation if not the worst. It is not true to say that it is only the lower urgency categories that are affected when it is the urgent category that has suffered perhaps the worst decline and is at such a bad point.

I wish the minister every success in getting our $800,000, and I offer her bipartisan support. If she thinks that expressions from me or a joint letter to the federal health minister would help, I am very prepared to do that.

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