Debates Day 3 - Thursday 1 May 2003
Parliamentary Record 11
Debates for 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005
Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Thursday 1 May 2003 you were in Nhulunbuy - and in Nhulunbuy you would have only one of each of the speciality areas: physio perhaps, speech pathology, those sorts of things. What has happened is that those contracts come up and the person is told: Well, look, there is no money until the end of the financial year. Stick around, though. In a place like Nhulunbuy, it means that the person would have to leave town. I know that has caused some stress there with at least one position. The reason they have to leave town, of course, is the fact that in order to secure accommodation in Nhulunbuy, if you are a public servant, you must have a job. The provision of accommodation is very limited in Nhulunbuy. Arguably, in places like Tennant Creek, if you do not have a job and you are hanging out for the end of the financial year in the hope that positions will be re-funded, it would be a very difficult decision whether or not to stay. There have been some real frustrations over the budget situation. Another problem has been the provision of stores. I leamt that here in Alice Springs in one area, for example, they need to purchase pregnancy testing kits. You would think that that was an absolute given: if you need pregnancy testing kits, you need them. There are no ifs or buts. The managers have had to go to extraordinary measures in order to purchase the kits, and they fmd it very frustrating. The other problem is recruitment to positions. I remember when this issue became a real problem around February. You could notice that recruitment had ground to a halt. If you purchased the paper from early February, particularly Saturdays Northern Territory News, you would find quite a lot of ads for the Department of Health and Community Services. Then all of a sudden, the ads ceased to appear in that paper. Last weekend, I do not think there were any ads there for that department. Very few ads are appearing for recruitment. It causes a problem here in Alice Springs in that there is a lack of staff for example in the operating theatres. It is very difficult to gather more staff if you are not advertising for them. Last week, in the Weekend Australian, there was an ad for nurses for the A and E Department, the new emergency department, in Darwin. However, I am sure it is very disappointing for the Alice Springs people that ads are not appearing to recruit to this area. Recruitment has basically dried up in most areas of the Department of Health and Community Services. The staff who are left cope as best they can, and that is causing real problems and stresses. Here in Alice Springs, which is where we are talking about, I have had contact with patients from time to time who complain about various things. The major complaints that they have replicate the problems which are also occurring at Royal Darwin Hospital. The problems have been the wait for beds; the hospitals have often been full of patients, and people coming into the A and E Department are placed on trolleys for admission and have to wait many hours. In cases where complaints have come through to me, they have had to wait over 24 hours. One person had to wait three days. Here in Alice Springs, I have had complaints of over 24 hour waits in A and E before going up to the hospital into the wards for a proper bed. The other complaint is the fact that surgery has been curtailed. It does not matter what fancy words you put on it: there is definitely a lack of surgical resources in Alice Springs. The end result has been lengthy waits for people needing surgery. It has been very frustrating for patients who have been told: You are on; you are o ff . Last week I had a phone call from a man who is a patient at the moment - or was; I think he was discharged yesterday - on the surgical ward at Alice Springs Hospital. People are being fasted and then are not fasted - You are on, you are o ff - day after day, as they try to get patients into, I suspect, only one theatre that is operating at the moment. When this man complained about the situation, he was very supportive of the nursing staff. He had been told that the problem was a lack o f staff in the operating theatres. That problem has been caused by a lack of funding. I would argue that what the minister and the department are doing is not recruiting to positions and tightening up on the services being provided in an effort to bring the budget in on time and on track when we know that they are currently grossly overspent. The other problem, as I mentioned, is having to wait in the Accident and Emergency Department for a bed on the ward. In Alice Springs Hospital, we have the situation where there was a ward built as a private ward. It is very unfortunate that the new government has not pursued that - has not put the real effort in to get it up and running - because there are many people who carry private health insurance and would dearly like the opportunity to be a private patient in a private area and they have been denied that opportunity. Instead, that ward has been turned into consulting rooms. I would argue that, given the lack of beds at Alice Springs Hospital, it would be much better to place the consultants in a less expensive area - for example, you could build something far less expensive out the back o f the hospital - than to use an area that has been set up with all the infrastructure required for a hospital ward. I believe that is a waste of an area which could be set up as a ward for public patients, if the government is not committed to private, so that you do not have the situation of 3967
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