Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Questions without notice and ministers statements

Health system


Questions without notice and ministers statements

Health system

Mr GUY (Bulleen—Leader of the Opposition) (14:01): My question is to the Minister for Health. Jeffrey lives in Berwick and he suffers from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and as such cannot work, cannot lift things, suffers from severe chest pain and is at risk of suffering a fatal heart attack. On 16 June he was contacted by phone to advise he was having a heart device implanted on 21 June, yesterday; he had been waiting for years. On his way to the hospital, an hour before the procedure, he was told by text, ‘Your procedure has been cancelled. There are no overnight beds available’. Can the minister advise how many other Victorians are in a similar situation as Jeffrey and having life-saving procedures cancelled just hours before, causing more stress and anxiety due to the government’s mismanagement of our health system?

Mr FOLEY (Albert Park—Minister for Health, Minister for Ambulance Services, Minister for Equality) (14:02): Can I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. As is my practice, I will not refer to particular individuals, but of course beyond the principle that all of these decisions are made on the basis of clinical advice, what I will nonetheless refer to is the general position which the Victorian, the Australian and indeed most global health systems are facing themselves at the moment in the midst of the recovery from a global, once-in-100-year pandemic that COVID-19 has delivered to us. In that context what we have seen—as we are seeing this day—for over 100 straight days now is somewhere between 1200 and 1500 healthcare workers every day being furloughed as a result of COVID. Added to that are other workers being off with the flu—we are seeing an astronomically high and early flu season—and indeed a range of other viruses that are circulating amongst the community. Given that our healthcare workforce is disproportionately made up of women, the amount of care leave that is also undertaken at the moment is at record highs. At the same time we are also seeing record demand on that system, all of which comes together in such a way as to bring together, particularly when it comes to elective surgery—and I do note that the title of ‘elective surgery’ is perhaps not strictly true because of course every surgery is important—this particular set of circumstances.

What we are seeing at the moment is unprecedented demand and unprecedented pressure on our workforce in the context of a global pandemic. So that is why, when it comes to elective surgery in particular, this is a government that has invested $1.5 billion in delivering a recovery plan not just to deal with this particular issue but to recast how elective surgery is done in a manner in which we will reshape the lessons from this global pandemic in a way that delivers permanent system change to address these kinds of issues. What this government does have in the course of its proud history of investment in this place—and I want to acknowledge the member for Altona for leading us in 2019 to having this—is the highest level of elective surgery investment. That got us to the point we have, and we will return to that post this pandemic.

Mr GUY (Bulleen—Leader of the Opposition) (14:05): Jeffrey has appealed for help. He has said:

The longer my treatment keeps being delayed, the more likely I will die soon.

People like Jeffrey cannot wait any longer. After eight years in office, how has it got to this—that people on their way to life-saving surgery are told by text that it is cancelled because there are no beds left, despite government promises that there would be?

Mr FOLEY (Albert Park—Minister for Health, Minister for Ambulance Services, Minister for Equality) (14:06): Can I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his supplementary question. In regard to the specifics, it is not my practice to refer to specific individual cases, but insofar as this case that the honourable Leader of the Opposition points to suggests that there are wider systems issues, we concede that there are wider systems issues. They are the result of a global pandemic. We apologise to anyone who has had their surgery delayed or deferred. In regard to how these matters are dealt with, a $1.5 billion investment in better systems, better people and better infrastructure will see the manner in which this particular case and many others like it get the most timely, professional and appropriate care. In regard to the particular circumstances that the Leader of the Opposition points to, should the Leader of the Opposition, with the person’s consent, provide me with that information, I am more than happy to have the clinical basis of that followed up.

Members interjecting.

The SPEAKER: Order! Just before calling the Premier, if members on both sides of the house wish to speak across the person on their feet—they are not interested in what is being said—they can leave the chamber, and they will be asked to leave the chamber without further warning.