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Govt-Greens block Opposition call for emergency department audit

ACT Labor and Greens MLAs have blocked Opposition calls for a performance audit of emergency department wait times.

New Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson called for the audit in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday because of “deteriorating” wait times in the Canberra Hospital’s emergency department.

Mr Hanson cited quarterly health report figures that showed only “42 per cent per cent of patients requiring urgent treatment and 44 per cent of patients requiring semi-urgent treatment were seen on time”.

The Opposition health spokesman, who has been criticised by the government for his adversarial political style on health matters, took a new approach on Wednesday, telling the Assembly he wanted to work “constructively” to fix emergency wait times.

“There is politics in everything that we do, but at its core this is about making improvements in our health system and making sure that we get a better result for the people of Canberra,” he said.

“I could have the opportunity to bang on about emergency departments for the next four years but what I want to do is something constructive.”


Mr Hanson proposed an Auditor-General’s review to determine why the territory’s wait times were not improving.

But Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury and the ACT Government rejected the motion.

Mr Rattenbury said an audit was not “the right step at this stage” and instead called on the government to table information on what was already being done to improve access to the Canberra Hospital’s emergency department.

The Greens Minister also noted the government had already called for an Auditor-General’s review on progress made since last year’s report on the data-doctoring scandal.

Chief Minister and Health Minister Katy Gallagher congratulated Mr Hanson on “his change in approach” in the Assembly chamber and said it was “refreshing to see nice Jeremy come out for a play”.

But she said wait times could not be improved by looking at the emergency department alone and solving the problem was not going to happen overnight.

“The single biggest thing that could improve the emergency department waiting times is to improve the way that we manage our beds across the hospital,” she said.

“That work does require significant change to the way we conduct our business, how doctors manage their time as well.

“In relation to the Auditor-General, which is what the Opposition was calling for, I’d already invited her to come back in 12 months post her last review into the emergency department.”

Mr Hanson said he was disappointed by the Government and Mr Rattenbury’s decision.

“To simply get more information about what programs aren’t working isn’t going to solve the problem,” he said.

“We need someone to come in and have a proper review.

“It worked well with elective surgery, it would work well with emergency departments and we’d have a positive way forward.”