Mary Wooldridge MP

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Bendigo Health: Anaesthetic Technicians

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Adjournment Debate

My adjournment matter this evening is for the Minister for Health in the other place, and the action I seek is for her to ask Safer Care Victoria to review the situation with respect to anaesthetic technicians, to assess the poor management of the transition from anaesthetic technicians to anaesthetic nurses and determine what impact that has had on the safety of surgical services at Bendigo Health and to make recommendations about how that transition can more effectively be undertaken.

I am very pleased that the minister heeded the concerns I raised in this place last sitting week regarding the loss of microbiology services and that she has sent Safer Care Victoria in to evaluate the impact on the health service and what needs to change. This has been well received by the staff team at Bendigo Health. It is fair to say that Safer Care Victoria has expressed concern about the changes and the impact on safety and quality in relation to care of the removal of those microbiology services to Melbourne. It also has expressed concern about the impact that the removal of those services has had on ensuring that Bendigo Health can genuinely offer world-class health services. The work is happening to identify what critical interventions must be provided on site and the clinical implications if those services are not provided. There is some optimism among the staff that this issue will be resolved in favour of maintenance of a significant range of microbiology services on site at Bendigo Health, as is needed.

There are still significant issues, though, at Bendigo Health. The waiting list is up significantly, with an additional 315 people on the waiting list in just the last quarter. This is a 22 per cent increase. The hospital is paying St John of God Bendigo Hospital and Bendigo Day Surgery to try to bring those waiting lists down by doing some elective surgeries at those locations. That is well and good, but the problem is that they need to fix what is happening in terms of elective surgery. There are still many shifts — I have been told over 100 a week — where the anaesthetic nursing staff have to be filled by agency staff, and this is leading to a very significant cost in the order of $100 000 per month to pay for these additional agency staff.

There is still not a resolution in relation to the CEO. It is four months since the CEO stepped down, and this has still not been resolved, and it is fair to say staff are very frustrated. They want to do their jobs properly, and they are being constrained from doing that. There is a very serious question as to whether the board is up to the job given their clear failure to manage these very critical issues.

In terms of the anaesthetic staff, the problem is there is still no paediatric surgery happening as a result of these services being withdrawn with this transition to the anaesthetic nursing staff. The lists are going very slowly, the waiting lists are growing and there is a significant cost of agency staff, as I have outlined, so I do seek a commitment from the minister for Safer Care Victoria to investigate these circumstances while they are there looking at the microbiology services.

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