House debates

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Questions without Notice

Health Reform

2:38 pm

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (Robertson, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Health and Ageing. What is the scale of quality and safety problems in our health system? What health reforms is the government proposing to improve the safety and quality of health care? How have these been received? And what is the government’s response?

Photo of Nicola RoxonNicola Roxon (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Health and Ageing) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Robertson for her question. She has a number of health services in her electorate and I know, like many on this side of the House, would be concerned about the sheer scale of problems that occur in our hospitals and in our health system. It is extraordinary that today, when the government is making efforts to tackle what is such a serious problem, those opposite have stooped to a new low, putting many thousands of Australian lives at risk.

Let me take the parliament through some of these numbers. One in 10 patients in our hospitals across the country experiences an adverse event or has a near miss. One in 30 adult patients contract an infection, which means—for those opposite who are hollering—that two million extra bed days are needed every year because of incidents that occur in our hospitals. And 12,000 Australians every year acquire bloodstream infections. Of those 12,000 people, a quarter—nearly twice the national road toll—die every year because of infections which are acquired in our hospitals.

Those opposite are misguided in their view about this legislation, if they want to holler that we should just blame the states. This is a piece of legislation to hold the states accountable, and those opposite have actually voted against it. I would like to highlight—because this is the first piece of health reform legislation that this parliament has voted on—that every National Party member and every Liberal Party member has voted against this measure. I thank those on the crossbenches for supporting this important measure. They obviously are concerned that we do something about these shameful statistics. In fact, those opposite who are still yelling may like to be reminded that the first person who introduced this body as a temporary body was the Leader of the Opposition. But now, extraordinarily, when we seek to make this permanent—so that this body can have some teeth, so that we can actually hold the states, the hospitals and others in the system to account—the Leader of the Opposition and his party are against it.

How is this possibly consistent? I think it is clear that the coalition is indicating that when it comes to health reform it is going to block us every step of the way, even if it means that thousands of Australian lives which could be saved will not benefit from these sorts of reforms. It is a great shame that the Leader of the Opposition, who has the decency to smile when he knows he introduced this first step, is now being completely inconsistent. Then you have the member for Dickson, the shadow minister for health, who has shown in two years that he opposes a lot of things but does not stand for anything. He did not want to support a tax on alcopops. He has been anti nurse, he has been anti prevention, he has been anti reform, he has been pro millionaire, he was anti apology when the parliament apologised to Indigenous Australians and now he is even anti safety when thousands of Australians die in our hospitals every year. Shame!