Tuesday, 7 June 2022
Questions without notice and ministers statements
Questions without notice and ministers statements
Mr GUY (Bulleen—Leader of the Opposition) (14:01): My question is to the Premier. Mark from Bendigo is currently waiting for spinal surgery. He is in constant pain and on addictive opioid pain relief medication. He is a former police officer, and pain has left him unable to perform daily tasks and activities that once brought him joy such as footy umpiring. Mark was placed on the elective surgery waiting list in September 2020 and listed as a category 2 patient, with admission within 90 days being desirable. As of 1 June 2022, he has been waiting 621 days. Mark was recently advised by his neurosurgeon that surgery will not take place in the foreseeable future, and it may well be another 600 days before the surgery can occur. What does the Premier have to say to Mark, who is in the gallery today, as to why the crisis in Victoria’s health system has failed him so badly?
The SPEAKER: Order! Just before calling the Premier, I remind members not to refer to members of the gallery.
Mr ANDREWS (Mulgrave—Premier) (14:02): Heeding your advice, Speaker, I will not refer to anyone in the gallery, but let me thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question and acknowledge the service of the constituent or the individual that the Leader of the Opposition references. If I am provided with further details—not publicly, if it is not the wish of the person involved to do so publicly—provided I am given that person’s details, I am more than happy to firstly determine whether that person is a public patient, a private patient or a private patient in a public hospital, for instance; is it a WorkCover matter, all of those matters; what hospital, what surgeon and all of those matters. I am happy to follow that through and provide a comprehensive response.
Mr ANDREWS: Well, to those opposite interjecting about the fact that this individual is in the gallery, the Speaker has just indicated that it is against the rules of this house to refer to someone who is in the gallery. So if that is not the definition of a cheap point by those opposite—
The SPEAKER: Members on both sides!
Mr ANDREWS: If the Leader of the Opposition provides me with further details, then I will provide—
The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Gembrook is warned.
Mr ANDREWS: Again, is it about you or about the individual you have raised? Because you have raised 50 different cases and provided the details of nine to my office—nine. So there are more than 40 that have not been provided, and a cynic might say that that is about those asking the question rather than the person they are pretending to advocate for. If I am given the details, I give a commitment to the individual involved, to whom I am not allowed to refer, as per your ruling, to follow that up with the health service concerned.
In a broader context it is important to acknowledge that COVID-19 has cancelled tens of thousands of surgeries. That is regrettable. That is not the outcome that anyone wants. It is certainly not an outcome that anyone chose. It is the circumstance that we and New South Wales and every state in the country and every nation in the world confronts, and it is why just a little earlier this year, confirmed in the budget delivered just a few weeks ago, we provided $1.4 billion to do an elective surgery catch-up right across the system, growing total capacity from about 200 000 to 240 000 operations each year, every year—not a blitz, but growing capacity all the way across the system for every year, including things like, for instance, taking over the Frankston Private Hospital and turning it into a public elective surgery centre. So the funding is there, but there is no denying the fact that there is significant catch-up that needs to be done because of this pandemic. If the Leader of the Opposition provides me with the details, of course I will follow up and make sure that the most appropriate response has been provided to the individual in question.
Mr GUY (Bulleen—Leader of the Opposition) (14:05): Despite suggestions from some opposite, Mark’s case is real, and he is in the Parliament today.
The SPEAKER: Order! Members on my right! I warn members on both sides of the house, if there is further shouting across the chamber, they will be removed without warning.
Mr GUY: At present it appears Mark may wait more than 1200 days for surgery that should be done within 90. Mark’s current medication regime consists of Naproxen and opioid pain relief, Endone. He is also living with a back support brace, reducing his quality of life. What guarantees can the Premier give Mark that he will get his surgery within the next 90 days rather than waiting almost four years?
Mr ANDREWS (Mulgrave—Premier) (14:06): Classification of patients is a matter for clinicians. I am not a clinician, nor will I in answering this question pretend to be one. I am not a neurosurgeon. I am not an orthopaedic surgeon. Clinicians, not politicians, ought to determine the categorisation of patients. However, what I am very keen to make sure is that no patient waits any longer than is absolutely necessary given the catch-up that we have to do. There is not $1.4 billion there for fun. It is $1.4 billion there to get people the surgery they need. If I am provided with the information, I will follow up and make sure that the system is working as best as it possibly can and that this individual or any Victorian gets the surgery they are entitled to as fast as possible. There has been a global pandemic, and it has cancelled tens of thousands of surgeries—again, a clinical judgement made on the best of advice. It is regrettable, but it is a reality.