6 May 2023

Is a Royal Commission the only way to fix a broken ACT health system?

| Jeremy Hanson MLA
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Jeremy Hanson

Jeremy Hanson says the ACT Government has failed to deal with ACT Health’s problems at every turn. Photo: Region Media.

The ACT Health system is broken and the situation cannot continue.

Almost every week there is a new crisis. Every time a new problem is exposed, the government refuses to provide adequate answers, either avoiding questions, blocking out FOI documents, or simply denying the stark facts that are plainly in front of them.

A Royal Commission is the highest form of independent investigation, and is the only way to get real answers and real solutions.

It is now clear that, since the agreement in 2012 between Labor and the Greens to share power, ACT Health has been experiencing significant deterioration in performance in areas such as waiting times, bed numbers, governance, culture, staffing, infrastructure and funding.

Between 2015-16 and 2018-19, the Labor-Greens government cut real health expenditure per person by 3.6 per cent. Those cuts are now showing across the system.

Former Chief Minister Jon Stanhope and treasury official Khalid Ahmed have identified a 150-hospital bed shortfall across ACT Health.

Today, less than 50 per cent of Emergency Department patients are seen within clinically recommended wait times in the ACT, with only 36 per cent of urgent patients being seen on time – the worst-performing jurisdiction in the country.

READ MORE ‘They’re the ones who have broken it’: Libs call for royal commission into ‘worst performing’ health system

The AMA has stated elective surgery patients are waiting up to several years on hidden waiting lists to see specialists in hospital outpatient clinics.

More than 6000 patients are overdue for an endoscopy, waiting an average of 400 days across all triage categories despite the government being warned in 2009 that the number of suites needed to double.

Five private cardiologists wrote to the minister and stated that services have “deteriorated to standards far below national and international guidelines”.

A review into the ICU found “there was a lack of response or support from management to staff concerns” and “a negative workplace environment”.

The Fetal Medicine Unit lost its training accreditation on 31 August 2022, and staff have since reduced their hours or left the unit.

A 2022 review into Dhulwa identified significant dysfunction, including substandard care and a toxic workplace.

It was revealed in 2023 that private patient medical records were being sent to a union, with CHS saying patients have been let down due to the “serious breach” in the privacy of patients, concluding “trust was on the line and we’ve let these patients down”.

READ ALSO DA out to demolish parts of Canberra Hospital campus for new pathology centre

The 2021 Workplace Culture Survey revealed that 23 per cent of nurses and medical officers experienced bullying in the workplace over the last 12 months and one in eight nurses and one in four medical officers wanted to leave CHS in two years.

A survey by the Medical Board of Australia into junior doctor training in the ACT found that 29 per cent experienced bullying, harassment and/or racism.

Canberrans have the most expensive cost to visit a GP in the country, yet the ACT Government is adding payroll taxes to their costs that will worsen the problem.

It has been well documented that there are systemic failures across the ACT health system on a depressingly regular basis.

When trying to get answers on these and many other issues, questions and FOI requests have been blocked, dismissed or avoided by the government.

That leaves a responsible Assembly with only one choice – to call for an inquiry with full independence and full authority to seek and find answers.

That is why the Canberra Liberals are calling on the Chief Minister to establish a Royal Commission under the Royal Commissions Act 1991 to investigate the failures, current needs and future requirements of the ACT Health system.

The Royal Commission Terms of Reference are to include but not be limited to the consideration of staffing shortages, waiting times, management and cultural problems, poor results across key performance indicators, management and outcomes in the mental health system, governance issues, infrastructure requirements, and funding shortfalls and priorities.

Just like aged care, veterans’ affairs and the banking system federally, a Royal Commission can provide a pathway forward.

For the patients, for the staff doing their best in a broken system, and for the future of health care in Canberra, we need this Royal Commission.

Importantly, we are calling that the Royal Commission and report by the end of 2024. That is after the next ACT election. We are not proposing this as a pre-election stunt, but as a way to advise any future government of what the real issues are and what solutions are required.

It is the only way to fix a broken system.

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After 20 years under this Labor /Green government the system is still not working. And with constant denials that there is anything wrong, a royal commission would be great but it will never happen with this corrupt mob. Still waiting for what happened to the 8mil consultant payments to Think Garden by CIT. Mr Steel are you awake.!

The Canberra Liberals seem to missing their shadow health spokesperson! Has anyone seen Leanne?

Yahoo Princess!

devils_advocate9:46 am 08 May 23

Hey at least we got the toy tram set, right guys?


Jeremy Hanson, angry and ageing ex-military man. The only language Jeremy Hanson understands is conflict. Jackbooting around the Assembly railing against lefties, Commies and the union. Undermining and scheming against colleagues. There is no loyalty in the Liberal party!
Jeremy’s political life is waning, but it has never really taken off. He has never achieved anything in his political life. This is after 15 years as a shadow minister for just about everything. This included a short period as leader but that ended disastrously and spectacularly.
Jeremy will be putting his hand up again at the next ACT election, tired, angry and bitter!

devils_advocate9:47 am 08 May 23

Ok you don’t like the author but what are your views on the actual issue he has raised?

Well wouldn’t a royal commission bring this out and support your view because my experience with the health system has not been great. I don’t believe either party and want to know the truth.

Estelle personal attacks on individuals on either side of politics deminishs any argument you put forward.

Calls for a royal commission by the Canberra Liberals is a stunt noid. A stunt to try and embarrass the government. Wasting the assembly’s time with no confidence motions, calls for inquiries, snarling across the chamber at ministers and disrupting proceedings or rehashing previous debates because they have nothing else to offer. The Liberals are now calling for a royal commission into health. An inquiry costing taxpayers many millions of dollars into a nation-wide predicament largely driven by cut-backs to the health system after 10-years of a Liberal conservative government.
And despite your comment to Estelle above, the fact is acting Liberal leader Jeremy Hanson is an angry and ageing ex-military man who only understands the language of conflict. He will be back again at the next election, tired, angry and bitter after 16 years in opposition.
ACT voters deserve better!

20 years to get this right, enough is enough! RC will tell Canberra citizens who is telling the truth and this political BS will stop and then we may have a chance on getting the health system we deserve. Why would you oppose that?

I think I have made my opinions quite clear in my comments noid. I suggest the Canberra Liberals get their own act together.
23 years in opposition. 23 years of stunts and wasting the assembly’s time in getting their act together and getting it right. Snarling across the chamber and disrupting assembly proceedings, rehashing debates because they have nothing to offer, no confidence motions and multiple calls for taxpayer funded inquiries to inform their agenda.
Parliamentary sittings are now overshadowed by the angriest in the party. Hanson, Cain, Cocks and Kikkert, shouting and yelling inanities across the chamber.
What can voters discern from that?
Enough is enough!

Jeremy Hanson should explain to reader’s the facts rather than his deliberate cherry picking and manipulation of data. He could also respond to Megsy below. The latest 2022 AMA report card which he refers reveals all states and territories suffered a decline in health performance in the years 2020-21. There are no doubts that there are many problems facing the ACT’s multi-faceted health system. They are complex and varied and include cultural, emergency waiting times and surgery waiting lists. I am a rationalist and have faith in our government and recognise that there have been a number of successes in tackling these issues over the last couple of years.
The report reveals that the ACT outperformed all states and territories in their response to Covid, amongst others. This included our government’s rapid response to the pandemic, high vaccination rates and the building of the surge centre in Garran. This was despite all the whingeing from the opposition. The surge centre’s success is without doubt. The report also reveals that all states and territories suffered a decline in funding from the federal government during their 10 year tenure as they sought to trash our health system. I don’t remember then Senator Seselja or the Canberra Liberals lobbying their federal colleagues for extra funding during this time. The report also reveals the ACT government consistently outperforms all states and territories in funding health, above and beyond commonwealth assistance.
Mr Hanson can also inform voters what his party will offer Canberrans in the unlikely event they win government. Particularly women and those seeking end of life options. Many past and current Liberals are active members and financial contributors to the right to life lobby. They also have strong links to the Advance Australia fringe group which has provided significant funding to their cause.

Well wouldn’t a royal commission bring this out and support your view because my experience with the health system has not been great. I don’t believe either party and want to know the truth.

Delude yourself all you want Mr Hansen, but this is just a stunt. You fail to address the elephant in the room – the role of the Liberals at a national level in health. There are two major problems with the hospitals. Firstly, the number of people going to emergency because they cannot afford to go to a GP; and secondly, the number of people who delay getting healthcare until a minor problem has escalated to a serious issue – again because they cannot afford to go to a GP. And what role did the rocket scientist Liberals in freezing Medicare rebates have to play in this farce?????? The ideological push to destroy the fundamentals of Medicare needs to be addressed in any review of what has happened.

Today’s opinion pieces are boring drivel

I know the opposition has a job to do but it gets a bit much to hear them constantly denigrate the Canberra health system as the worst in Australia. I have family members who work in the ACT’s health system. They work hard and are very proud of the work they do. I have also been receiving treatment at the Canberra Hospital over a number of months and can’t fault the care I have received. Yes there are problems in this multi-faceted and constantly expanding health system as with any of Australia’s state and territory health services.
I couldn’t be bothered arguing with many of Jeremy Hanson’s false claims and figures in this article, cherry picked from various reports. The Canberra Liberals have no policies. They are now desperately using the parliament and the media to push the government to hold inquiries into various directorates and now a royal commission into the ACT’s health system. A royal commission costing taxpayers many millions of dollars.
The findings of these taxpayer funded inquiries will inform their policies for the next ACT election because Mr Hanson and his party are too lazy to get off their backsides and do the work and develop policies themselves.

@jack D Clearly you missed the bit that states the findings should be reported after the next election so how will this have any impact on policies leading up to the next election? Secondly I find it interesting the AMA has backed the calls for an inquiry and even the nurses union has said they are not opposed to it and something needs to be done. If the Union is not disagreeing with the liberals you know something is seriously wrong with the health system

To be fair, un-redacting documents which seem to obscure poor behaviour and practice might avoid the need for a Royal Commission. I think everybody in Canberra has first-hand experience of the public health system, either as a patient or through family and friends. The grapevine is more powerful than the official information that has been released, so it seems pointless to keep resisting because it shows the sort of behaviours that public organisations should not be promoting. To be fair, CHS have supplied lots of information and seem to have a good CEO, it is the mothership Directorate that is trying to hide information which would be of the public interest. Without an honest appraisal you may be doing your family members a disservice if you show no interest in discovering the reasons behind a high attrition rate, some continuing rank behaviour, and accusations of the wastage of many more millions of dollars than a Royal Commission would cost. That may be affecting current patient treatments and contributing to continuing poor performance and poor staffing levels, so why would you support hiding this? How do you think the staff feel when they see management trying to pretend that things that have happened, have not happened, even during their Culture Review where some people just undermined it? Are they going to recommend people apply for a job there, or tell them to stay the hell away and get out themselves? This is not a political post, I don’t care about politics but i do care about people. It is about staff and patient safety and the need for Canberra to have a strong, professional and accountable health service where existing Government rules are followed and not ignored, abused, or disobeyed.

I care about people, staff and patient safety too JimCharles.
I am not sure what has been redacted. Nor who has redacted the information and whether it has the potential to identify staff, patients and their treatment.
I certainly wouldn’t like that information to get into public hands, Jeremy Hanson or his hapless and pretend shadow health minister!

Now Barr is hoping the Federal Labor government will bail him out for his failure to fund health appropriately. He’s calling for more Federal funds for health. No mention of his neglect of the area in favour of his pet projects. Exactly the same plan as his request to have the ACT housing debt forgiven, as public housing is another area he’s neglected.

Hey Luke…. Do you know ANOTHER way to get the truth out there? I don’t like the clamour for Royal Commissions but SOMETHING has to be done…

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