Speech: Health Legislation Amendment (Quality and Safety) Bill 2021

I rise today to speak on the Health Legislation Amendment (Quality and Safety) Bill 2021, but before I begin I would like to acknowledge the hardworking health professionals who have been working absolutely under enormous pressure in a system that is not well funded—but I will get into that in a minute—and putting them into extraordinary circumstances.

I am very lucky to know many of the nurses who work very hard across South-West Coast, my electorate, particularly at South West Healthcare, where I trained.

I would like to acknowledge today that in Queen’s Hall is one of my friends who I trained with, Catie Asling, an exceptional nurse who has both theatre training and midwifery training under her belt.

Catie and I, as I said, trained together, and it has been interesting listening to stories of my colleagues. Thanks, Catie, for the hard work you have been doing. I know you did 12 hours in PPE, which is hot in any circumstances, and swabbed my son and my daughter-in-law throughout the last 12 months and just
spent three weeks in the COVID intensive care ward at South West Healthcare.

You are one of many that I would like to thank and acknowledge. She is sitting out there with a couple of my dairy colleagues, so I had better acknowledge Rod and Lesley Sheen as well.

I think it is really important that we acknowledge the hard work of the health professionals, and this
bill is a health bill that actually does a few things, but I am going to highlight two things, and the first
one is that the bill permits the Secretary of the Department of Health to appoint a chief quality and
safety officer.

This new officer will be responsible for conducting quality and safety reviews of health
and ambulance services, and these reviews will focus on systemic issues rather than the individual

Now, the question I ask is: is this bill an admission that the policies and procedures in place at
health services right now are insufficient to deal with patient treatment problems?

The question really is: why is a chief quality and safety officer needed? I would suggest that if we look at the Productivity Commission’s report, it highlights just this week that we as the state of Victoria are the most underfunded state for health of anywhere in this nation.

We have the least health funding per capita, per patient, of any other state. This is not because of the pandemic. This, according to the Productivity Commission, began long before the pandemic.

We have got a Premier who was the Minister for Health for three years and then became the Premier,
so he knows very intricately the health system and he knows that he has not done his job.

Yes, we absolutely are in a pandemic, and yes, we need to do things differently than we did two years ago, but the reason the health system is under pressure is the mismanagement of this government.

I back that up with the statement that if we had have had the 4000 ICU beds when they were promised to us, we would not have the waiting lists we have today for surgery, because many of those surgeries cannot
be done, because you have to have sometimes an ICU backup, and there is just not the capacity because
we have not had that promise delivered on.

I will move on now to the second point I want to highlight in this bill, and it is about when we have
had an incident—and these do happen, because nothing is perfect—and the doctor or the health
organisation, the hospital, is able to issue an apology to the person without compromising themselves,
without fear of incriminating themselves. I actually think this is very important.

When people go through a health situation it is a really, really vulnerable time in your life, and if
something goes wrong or you believe something has gone wrong and people go to ground and do not
actually give you a decent explanation, it is very, very hard for people to process and move to an
acceptance stage and work with what the problem has left them with, or some people might lose
someone, a family member, or they might actually—you know.

I have seen it many, many times, and people just find it very, very disturbing. So I actually think this is really good, and I think it is really important. It is psychologically important to have an apology when you deserve one.

So I think it is really a good segue to talk about the apology that is needed to go from the Premier and
the health minister and the Labor state government to the 801 families who lost loved ones at the start
of the pandemic as a result of the failure of this government to recognise that you do not put people in
charge of quarantine who have no infection control training.

I mean, really? That is the most basic thing. I do not—well, I do know why they did it. It was all about giving jobs to the boys. What on earth was this government thinking? And 801 people died. So that is one of the first apologies that might hopefully happen, and what about apologising to all the people now who are on a waiting list – 80 000 people on waiting lists for vital elective surgery.

It is not just the people on waiting lists, because that is going to grow. It is going to be a thousand next
week on top of that and another thousand. By Easter it will be 90 000.

I actually worry about the people who have put off things and are not on waiting lists. Those people who have a colonoscopy every two years, they have thought ‘I can’t go to the doctor. We’ve been told not to do that. There are other people out there more important than me. I’ll be fine’.

And lo and behold, I am really worried about the fact that they will not be. Instead of having a polyp that was precancerous they get told they have got stage 3 cancer, and they begin their chemotherapy, and they begin their bowel resection and whatever treatment has to happen, and their life is more than likely severely shortened. And that is really not good.

I spoke to a very esteemed gentleman from my part of the world just last week, one of our senior
clinicians, a senior physician. I said this to him, and he said, ‘We are already seeing it, Roma’, and he
told me about a lady who got seen by telehealth because she thought she had sciatica.

And you cannot really examine a patient really well. Telehealth is good, but when you need to go in, you need to go in, and the doctors were not able to do that. So she saw someone for her sciatica, which turned out to be a primary osteosarcoma in her hip, and by the time this fellow saw her she had a fungating cancer in her breast.

That means the cancer broke through the skin and was oozing, a revolting wound, from her breast. You do not see that anymore. I saw that years ago. You do not see that anymore.

We are seeing things again that we should not be seeing, and I think about all the men in the country. It has been so goddamn hard to train them to get to see doctors, to prioritise their health, to attend to their
prostates before they have a problem that is untreatable. That is so important. That has been a really
big campaign.

Well, I can guarantee you most of the farmers I know would have put that off, and we will see so many cancers that we will not be able to treat.

I just cannot not mention either this callous decision that the government made about IVF, putting in vitro fertilisation treatments on hold.

These women have little chance, these families have a little window to be able to have these babies, and the government did not think—obviously—because they said it was about resources.

But the minute the community went into an uproar, they reversed it. So it was all about politics, because if it was about resources, which they said it was, because they did not have enough nurses, suddenly we found out all the nurses had been put on holidays, and the decision was reversed.

Well, sorry, but you are going to have a hard time telling anyone that that was a decision that was based on health advice: (a) because no-one will show us this health advice, and (b) how can the health advice then be flipped within two days and suddenly the resources appear? I am sorry. I can only think it is just pure callousness. That is all I can imagine. There are so many examples. I could go on for so long.

You know, in question time we heard about the mother-baby unit in Gippsland that has lost funding.
This is when women who have postnatal depression or a mental health crisis—sometimes extremely
sick—have to be hospitalised, and they cannot be hospitalised with their babies unless they are in a
mother-baby unit. But let us just cut the funding for that.

The minister goes on about maternal and child health nurses. Like, that is a different subject, Minister.
You must know that. And you have stopped that until 12 March anyway. I just cannot understand the
callous, callous behaviour that this health minister is responsible for. The Premier, as I say, knows the
system, and he is absolutely callous.