'Talk to us': Minister urged to listen to clinicians to fix health
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'Talk to us': Minister urged to listen to clinicians to fix health

Clinicians need to be allowed to speak to government directly for ACT's health woes to be fixed, the president of ACT Australian Medical Association says.

His comments came after a report released on Thursday showed Canberra's elective surgery and emergency departments' performances had plunged further, with ACT patients among the most likely in the country to be kept waiting for treatment.

ACT patients were far more likely to wait more than a year for surgery or for treatment at the emergency department than those in any other jurisdiction

The association's ACT president Antonio Di Dio said doctors and nurses on the ground were in the best place to give advice about how to improve Canberra hospitals' emergency department and elective surgery wait times.

But he said their advice got lost after it was filtered through layers of bureaucracy.

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"The government needs to talk directly to people involved - directly to surgeons, directly with emergency department staff and then the government needs to follow up," Dr Di Dio said.

"Doctors in hospitals are not allowed to approach ministers.

"They should be given a chance to express themselves.

"Ministers in good faith get 99 per cent of their information from senior bureaucrats ... but sometimes they actually need to listen to doctors and nurses in hospital."

Dr Di Dio said doctors and nurses were hard working and efficient and should not be blamed for the poor data.

He said the emergency department woes were largely due to bed block issues.

This meant the emergency department was often overfull because patients were not able to be moved to other wards.

This can be due to a lack of beds or lack of staff - or both - in other wards in the hospitals.

Dr Di Dio said a major reason was infrastructure and services were not keeping up with Canberra’s rapid population growth.

Opposition health spokeswoman Vicki Dunne said the report was "conclusive" proof Canberra had the worst performing hospitals in the country and the situation was deteriorating.

“Ms Fitzharris needs to stop saying we are heading in the right direction, start admitting there are serious problems, and roll up her sleeves to do something about it," she said.

“A good place to start would be to fix the toxic culture in the ACT’s health system, but Ms Fitzharris’ data-gathering exercise by the independent review panel simply won’t cut it."

Mrs Dunne said there was a focus on bureaucracy at the expense of service delivery and she didn't believe splitting the department would make that go away.

“With a third of the ACT’s budget spent on health, and the highest cost of care in the country, this Labor-Greens Government has no excuse for a failing health system," she said.

“Our hospitals should be structured and resourced to be able to deliver quality health care services. This government has proven comprehensively it simply cannot run an efficient health system for Canberra residents."

Daniella White is a reporter for The Canberra Times with a special focus on health issues

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