ACT News


Hospital bonus goes begging

The head of the ACT Heath Directorate has acknowledged the data doctoring scandal at Canberra Hospital forced management to reconsider their strategies to shorten emergency department waiting times.

It was revealed on Thursday that ACT hospital emergency department patients were the least likely to be seen, discharged or admitted within four hours in 2012.

Dr Peggy Brown told ABC radio the issue was complex, but revelations that hospital staff had tampered with data had been a setback.

“We had already implemented some early changes, at that stage our belief was those early changes were having some impact and so when we found that in fact the data was incorrect, then we actually had to go back and look at the strategies and timeline,” she said.

The comments follow the release of a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on Thursday, that revealed every state and territory except Western Australia has failed to meet emergency department performance targets and could miss out on sharing "reward funding'' of up to $50 million.

The bad news comes a day after computer problems at the Canberra Hospital's emergency department caused extended delays for patients with non-urgent conditions.


According to the National Emergency Access Target, by the end of 2015, 90 per cent of emergency department patients should be treated and sent home or admitted to a ward within four hours of arrival.

States and territories were set annual progression targets linked to reward funding.

More than 56 per cent of ACT emergency department patients were treated and admitted or discharged within fours during 2012, well short of a 64 per cent target. The ACT result was an improvement on a baseline of 55.8 per cent in 2009-10, but not good enough to qualify for $800,000 in reward funding.

Western Australia, which pioneered the four-hour target in Australia, exceeded its performance goal of 76 per cent with 78.5 per cent of patients dealt with on time. This could earn the state $5.3 million in extra hospital funding.

NSW, which had a 69 per cent target, achieved only 61 per cent.

State and territory governments have already begun lobbying the federal government in an attempt to get access to the reward funding.

The ACT government had been expecting to miss the emergency access target after it was discovered last year that Canberra Hospital executive Kate Jackson had tampered with emergency department performance data.

Ms Jackson changed the performance data using the hospital's Emergency Department Information System (EDIS).

On Wednesday, an EDIS malfunction caused major delays in the Canberra Hospital emergency department.

ACT Health deputy director Ian Thompson said patients with non-urgent conditions had been advised to consider seeking treatment through other providers, such as Calvary Hospital, the nurse-led walk-in centre or general practices.

"The consequence has been that the normal flow to the emergency department has been slowed down a bit,'' Mr Thompson said.

"EDIS is used to register and track patients through the emergency department. We have a manual system that we've planned in the event that EDIS goes down. We've started using that but it just takes longer.''

Attempts to fix the system were continuing on Wednesday night.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report showed that all states and territories except Victoria and Western Australia had met or exceeded elective surgery waiting-list targets.

In the ACT, more than 98 per cent of ''Category 1'' patients were assessed within 30 days, compared with a target of 95 per cent.

More than 57 per cent of Category 2 patients were seen within 90 days, compared with a target of 55 per cent. Almost 90 per cent of ''Category 3'' patients were operated on within a year, exceeding the target of 82 per cent.

- with Larissa Nicholson