Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Questions without notice and ministers statements

Portland District Health


Portland District Health

Ms BRITNELL (South-West Coast) (14:17): My question is to the Premier. In January, Jo from Portland had a CT scan which determined she had an abdominal mass. An MRI confirmed multiple large uterine fibroids and a cyst on her right ovary. Her gynaecologist told her she required an urgent hysterectomy, and she was told it was category 1 and needed to be done within three weeks. Due to the government scaling back services at the Portland hospital, she was sent to Warrnambool, where her surgery remained urgent. But on 26 May she was told that the closest appointment was now 12 months away. Jo suffers from a numb and aching left leg due to the pressure of the tumours, heavy periods and constant severe stomach pain. For Jo, her condition is having a severe physical and psychological impact. What does the Premier say to Jo who, due to the scaling back of services at Portland, is now in a longer queue and has no idea when she will have the vital surgery which will change her life?

Mr ANDREWS (Mulgrave—Premier) (14:18): I thank the member for the question. Firstly, no-one wants to see Jo or any Victorian unable to access the surgery that they need. No-one wants that, and that is why it is so challenging and regrettable that for the best of reasons we had to—the government had to—follow advice and hospitals had to make very difficult decisions to pause elective surgery because of this virus at various points throughout the last 2½ years. That is the first point.

The second point, and I am happy to correspond with the member about this, is that it is my advice that category 1 surgery has continued throughout the pandemic and that we have—to a very, very high, well into and beyond the 90th percentile—delivered category 1 surgery within the clinically recommended time. But the case that has been raised would not seem to accord with that so I am more than happy, if the details are provided, to raise that with South West Healthcare and the department. That is the second point.

The third point is the government has not scaled back services at Portland District Health service—quite the opposite. That is completely and utterly wrong. To suggest that Portland and district health service do not have more money than they have ever had—wrong. If they make individual decisions as a community board—a board from the community—about the profile of services they will run based on safety, quality, demand in their local community and workforce availability in their local community, if they make those decisions, then that is the governance model we have in Victoria working as it should, not directed by the ‘big government’ down in Melbourne but instead a hospital for locals run by locals and, might I say, one of the biggest employers in that local community. I have had the great pleasure in different roles over my time in public life to visit that hospital and to meet with staff and to meet with the then board members.

They took their responsibilities to their local community very seriously. The member for South-West Coast would do well to not reflect on those nurses and doctors and those people who serve on that board through a great sense of community awareness, support and activism. Like all of our country hospitals, they are filled with people who are highly skilled, highly compassionate and highly effective. So I reject the fairly cheap political point that the member tried to weave into her question. If the member provides me with details of the case in question—because it does not accord with the briefings that I have received in relation to category 1 surgery—we will follow that up, we will make sure that the system is working as best it can and if there is anything we can do to have this category 1 patient treated within the clinically recommended time, we will waste no time in doing that.

Ms BRITNELL (South-West Coast) (14:21): Under this government the Portland hospital has lost anaesthetic training, ophthalmology and maternity services. Local doctors now say they have no confidence to conduct general surgery where simple blood transfusions may need to take place. When will the government restore these services and give Portland back the health service it deserves?

Mr ANDREWS (Mulgrave—Premier) (14:21): In terms of what Portland deserves, what they do not deserve is a series of questions being asked in this place, where in the last sitting week or perhaps the one before Portland hospital had to take to Twitter to reassure people that what had been put to this place by those opposite was wrong. I will confirm this for the honourable member, but my recollection of the matter is that an anaesthetist was sick. Next thing: all anaesthetics have been cancelled, allegedly; everyone’s surgery was off. That was of course not the case, and the hospital had to take to Twitter to combat the misinformation put forward by those opposite. If it is about the patients, come forward and work with us. If it is about the politics, well, you can keep doing that on your own.