Page 2895 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 13 August 2013

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In terms of the emergency department and elective surgery, the elective surgery area will continue to meet the targets set out under the national agreement. They are challenging as well. While we have had good progress, there are areas, particularly in category 2 procedures, where the increased investment is driving demand. We have also got some very interesting situations where the admissions of category 2 patients on our waiting list are extraordinarily high compared to the admissions of category 2 patients on waiting lists interstate. I think we have almost double the admissions of category 2 on our list compared to the national average, and that is something we will have to focus on with surgeons to make sure people are being categorised in a way that can be measured and compared across the nation, because we are being compared against national targets. That is an area of pressure for us and we are doing some work on that at the moment.

In relation to the emergency department, later in September I will visit the hospitals that have done incredibly well—on the MyHospitals data anyway—in relation to improving their performance against the four-hour rule. I will go with staff from the emergency departments here to look at what programs they have put in place. My feeling is that most of them we are doing here, but if there are other steps they have taken, we will see what we can apply here.

The last year has been an incredibly political year for the Health Directorate, and it has been the subject of much scrutiny in this place. Whether you think the extent of that scrutiny is right or wrong, it has placed staff under incredible pressure. I think it goes to their professionalism at all layers—from the director-general down—that they have remained focused on the delivery of high quality patient care, despite all the pressure they have been under, I would argue unfairly at times, through the level of political interaction, particularly last year. They will continue to remain focused.

I think the view is that the triage categories—categories 1 to 5—is not a good measure of emergency department performance. That is, as it was explained during the estimates process to the committee, a process where a nurse has a look at someone and decides with a two-minute assessment where they might fit on that triage scale. I think the four-hour rule is a much better way of actually measuring quality of care and performance within the emergency department. And, again, when we discuss the emergency department, it is never acknowledged that the ACT leads the country in patient satisfaction for the quality of the treatment provided in their emergency department.

Clinical staff will maintain that quality of treatment is more important that arbitrary targets set by politicians. I think probably the answer is somewhere in between—you have to focus on quality of care, but you also need to focus on accountability measures for the amount of investment going into this important area of government service delivery.

This gives me the opportunity to put on the record my thanks for the extreme professionalism of staff and the work they do for the people of the ACT 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I look forward to concluding the nurses pay negotiations as

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