Page 4330 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 27 November 2013

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(c) doctors have recently raised concerns in the media that some patients are being ignored on elective surgery waiting lists while priority is given to others in order to make lists appear better; and

(2) calls on the Health Minister to immediately initiate an independent inquiry into the allegations raised by the doctors that elective surgery waiting lists are being manipulated.

It is a bit of a shame that we are back here talking about a similar issue to what we have talked about before. We were in this place in 2010 when it first came to light that there was inappropriate management of elective surgery waiting lists. It was raised by patients. David Wentworth had his surgery downgraded, and the allegation was backed up by surgeons. It was denied by the government, and it was shown, by a subsequent motion in this place that brought on an Auditor-General’s review, that, indeed, patients were being inappropriately downgraded.

We have seen the fabrication of data in our emergency departments, and we have seen before this government deny things like the bullying in obstetrics which was proved to be true after there was an inquiry.

I come here today because doctors have again raised concerns that elective surgery data or waiting lists are being manipulated to make the data look good. I will go through what has been said by those doctors, by those surgeons. This first came to light in the Canberra Times on 13 November. I will quote from an article entitled “Hospitals fiddling surgery waiting lists, say doctors”:

The ACT government has been accused of allowing some patients to languish on elective surgery waiting lists while others jump the queue to improve health performance data.

Peter Hughes, president of the ACT Visiting Medical Officers Association, said performance data at Canberra’s two public hospitals was being “manipulated” through a system in which recent entries to category two and three waiting lists were prioritised over patients overdue for elective surgery …

Dr Hughes said the system was in effect “manipulating surgical waiting lists, to try to make the statistics look better”.

He said some patients entering the category two waiting list were operated on within a few weeks, while others who had been waiting longer than the 90-day benchmark just kept waiting.

One Canberra surgeon, who did not want to be named, said patients who had waited the longest might “never be operated on in the public system”.

“They’re doing this to make things look better than they are, rather than making things better,” he said.

Another surgeon said he had an “unfair” situation where category two patients who had waited less than two months were treated before those who had waited more than a year.

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