Labor mates split on hospital survey

Party solidarity and the upcoming ACT election has failed to deter South Australia's Labor Minister for Health John Hill from criticising Canberra's biggest public hospital.

A study published last week by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine found that an unacceptably high number of emergency department patients in the ACT, Northern Territory and South Australia have waited more than 24 hours before being admitted to a ward.

When questioned in Parliament about the findings this week, Mr Hill launched an attack on the study's author, Associate Professor Drew Richardson, of the ANU.

Mr Hill also criticised the Canberra Hospital, where Professor Richardson works part-time.

''It is interesting to point out that the person who was responsible for the survey actually works in the emergency department, or is associated with the emergency department of the ACT, which is a poorly performing hospital compared to our hospital,'' Mr Hill said.

''Nonetheless, he lumped his results in with ours and then made some claims about our system based on one survey taken at 10 o'clock on a Monday morning.''


Professor Richardson has undertaken a survey of Australia's hospital emergency departments each year for the past six years.

Results are not issued for individual hospitals, but this year the study results found a high rate of long waits for admission through EDs in the territories and Adelaide.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher yesterday questioned the methodology behind the college survey but called for an end to ''cheap shots'' being taken at hospitals.

''We have similar concerns about the survey methodology,'' Ms Gallagher said.

''Canberra has a high quality health system. Our hospitals have the highest rates of patient satisfaction in the country.

''There is no benefit to patients when someone takes a cheap shot at a hospital. What patients do benefit from is governments investing in more nurses, more beds and better facilities.

''This is what I am delivering and will continue to deliver.''

Opposition Health spokesman Jeremy Hanson said Mr Hill's criticism of the Canberra Hospital was a major embarrassment for the ACT government.

''For Katy Gallagher's Labor colleagues to be criticising her hospital management is a major embarrassment. It shows just how bad the state of Canberra's health system has become under Katy Gallagher, with the longest elective surgery and emergency department waiting times in the country,'' Mr Hanson said.

Data published on the MyHospitals website shows that in 2010-11, patients at the Royal Adelaide Hospital emergency department in all but the most urgent category waited longer than the national average for treatment.

Waiting time results for the Canberra Hospital are still unavailable due to data tampering that was uncovered earlier this year.