Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 01 Hansard (Tuesday, 13 February 2018) . . Page.. 39 ..
MR BARR: Madam Speaker, the Attorney-General is absent from question time today. I will endeavour to assist members in the attorney’s portfolios.
Questions without notice
MR COE: The question I have is for the Minister for Health and Wellbeing. Minister, a few days ago, on 10 February, the Canberra Times reported that there are significant hidden waiting times for patients to see a specialist before they are booked for elective surgery. Some patients have to wait up to five years to see a specialist before they can get an appointment and in turn have to wait for a year further for an operation. The Canberra Times noted that Victoria posts quarterly updates on waiting times to see specialists in the public system but “An ACT Health spokesman could not provide … waiting times to see specialists in the ACT”. Minister, what is the extent of the hidden waiting times here in the ACT to see a specialist?
MS FITZHARRIS: I thank Mr Coe for the question. Like him, I read the article that appeared in the Canberra Times on the weekend. It is certainly a priority of this government to improve access and timeliness of access to all health services. Access to surgery has been boosted today, but I am particularly focused also on making sure that every person who is referred, both within the ACT and, of course, in the surrounding region, to a specialist in ACT Health is immediately triaged and will be contacted by ACT Health within a 10-day period to inform them of when they may see a specialist. We want to make sure, of course, that they will be contacted within 10 days of that referral being received by ACT Health from their GP. Then they will be informed of the time that it may take them to see their specialist depending on the clinical urgency. It is also important to note that not everybody who will see a specialist will necessarily be on the elective surgery waiting list. For example, in the specialty of urology only approximately 30 per cent of patients who may see a specialist will then go on to receive surgery.
On access to data, that is a great question and one I am pleased to answer. As has been an important part of the ACT-wide health data review, a very important pillar of the six pillars of that review is the information that we provide to consumers about ACT health data. That is an important component of the data review which will be completed late next month. I look forward to informing the Assembly on progress in that review and also subsequently the recommendations of the review and the government’s response. Access to timely information for consumers is a priority for me.
MR COE: Minister, why is the ACT government unable to provide waiting times to see specialists in the ACT system? Does the data actually exist? If so, will you report on it in the future?
MS FITZHARRIS: Yes, we will be, as part of the data review referred to in my previous answer, looking very closely at significantly increasing the data that we