Page 2648 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 15 August 2017
201-17 we can find that, in most cases, there appears to have been some improvement—at least on the reported figures, but we know they hold no integrity—but those improvements are certainly not of the proportions that warrant setting unachievable targets in 2017-18. I have to wonder if the minister has asked frontline staff what they think about the targets that were set? Why can the government not just be honest? Why can it not just acknowledge that setting impossible targets sends all the wrong messages to frontline staff? Is it any wonder staff are overworked and stressed?
Here is another one also associated with the emergency department. It relates to the number of patients whose length of stay in the emergency department is less than four hours. These patients can go into hospital, be referred elsewhere for treatment or be discharged. The target for 2015-16 was 77 per cent. The outcome was 66 per cent. Madam Acting Speaker, I would suggest that you would like to have a guess but I dare say you already know—that is, the target set for 2016-17 was again 77 per cent. If you can believe the figures, the outcome for 2016-17 was 72 per cent, not a bad result. So, then, what is the target for 2017-18? It is 90 per cent.
From 2015-16 to 2016-17 the outcome improvement went from 64 per cent to 72 per cent, an eight point improvement. Now the government wants to see that climb by a further 18 points in 2017-18. And the justification for setting that target is set out in budget statement C, at page 44:
The 2017-18 target reflects the staged approach to achieving the long term goal of 90% by the end of the financial year.
A staged approach is not eight points followed by 18 points; a staged approach is step by step, not leaps and bounds. It needs to be an incremental improvement. I wonder what the emergency department staff might have to say about that target. I call it poppycock, and I wonder what the broader ACT community and constituents would have to say about that.
What about the constituent who presented at ED less than a fortnight ago? The ED waiting room was almost full. After a wait of four hours this constituent was taken to acute care. Along the way she noticed patients on trolleys lining the corridors. An hour after that she was told the ED waiting room was standing room only. She finally was discharged at 12.30 am, and on the way out she noticed the corridors were still lined with patients on trolleys, some of whom had been there since she went to acute care at 7 pm. What would this constituent say about a target of 90 per cent for ED patients remaining in the department for less than four hours? I think she would agree that it would need to be called poppycock.
This approach to target setting applies not only to the Health Directorate but across all government agencies. Unachievable targets, no science, no learning, no consultation with frontline staff, no realistic improvement rates—just fingers in the air and all against a backdrop of dodgy outcome figures. It is meaningless drivel.
Then we go from the unachievable to the bizarre. There is a set of targets for the percentage of elective surgery cases admitted on time by clinical urgency. One of the