ACT News

Katy Gallagher defends the ACT health system as high quality

Health Minister Katy Gallagher has strongly defended the ACT health system as "not perfect" but highly rated on all measures of quality.

Her statements comes as further allegations of poor patient care emerge at the Canberra Hospital, including one man who was forced to fast for four days while waiting for non-elective surgery.

More allegations emerge: Chief minister Katy Gallagher has defended the record of ACT Health, saying the system is very ...
More allegations emerge: Chief minister Katy Gallagher has defended the record of ACT Health, saying the system is very high quality. Photo: Andrew Meares

Ms Gallagher said triage was still the best way to deal with emergency surgery wait times, a system which could result in less urgent cases waiting for sometimes days at a time.

"There is no other way to manage an emergency list and what that means is when you have someone with a less urgent injury they have to wait," she said.

"It's a really fraught area but it comes down to the availability of surgeons, the trauma cases in the region and how you manage that across a busy hospital."

She said she didn't know of any jurisdiction that recorded emergency surgery wait times and saw no point in introducing it in the ACT, as they were often very brief.

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In addition, an experienced nurse at the Canberra Hospital has blown the whistle on what they described as increasingly poor patient care standards over recent years.

Ms Gallagher said of all the complaints her office had received in the past 12 months many of them had been in regards to poor personal care of patients.

The health minister announced a suite of new measures on Friday to help improve quality of patient care including the introduction of Assistants in Nursing to deal with basic patient needs.

"We need to supplement that workforce with a different type of workforce... they're not qualified registered nurses or enrolled nurses but they can take [patients] to the toilet, shower them, change them, help them with their meal, all of those things they need help with" she said.

But Ms Gallagher said the ACT health system was high quality, with an excellent nursing workforce who looked after hundreds of thousands of patients a year.

"Health systems are not perfect systems at all – they're run by humans, they're very busy, the health system is under the microscope more than any other part of government," she said.

"[But] on every measure, and this is never reported, Canberra Hospital and Calvary Hospital's quality of care rates very highly."

Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson said Ms Gallagher's new measures were a clear admission the health system had problems.

"We will watch to see if any of these changes make a difference, but it is a clear acknowledgment from the minister that there is a crisis in the hospital," he said.

"It is clear that the hospital is overfull, staff are not coping, and patients are suffering."

Mr Hanson said Ms Gallagher's disinterest in recording emergency surgery wait times was unacceptable. 

"What we know is that patients are not getting emergency surgery in adequate times and it is important for the minister to understand those delays so they can remediate the problem," he said. 

"The reality is she doesnt want to report on those wait times because she doesn't want the public to know.

"Katy Gallagher has been the minister for eight years ... I for one have lost faith in her ability to lead the health system."