Goulburn Base Hospital Elective Surgery Waiting Lists
Ms HODGKINSON (Burrinjuck) [6.08 p.m.]: I draw to the attention of the House the drastic situation of waiting lists for elective surgery in the Southern Area Health Service and in particular the waiting list at Goulburn Base Hospital. The people of Burrinjuck remember the election promise to halve waiting lists that was made by the Premier during the 1995 State election campaign. The latest figure of 56,485 people waiting for elective surgery in New South Wales proves that that promise was a cruel hoax. I have received many representations from people in Goulburn who are waiting for elective surgery. They wait in pain for knee and hip replacement operations and other elective surgery. Ms Jean McCleary of Goulburn was sent by her doctor to see Dr Andrew Leicester, an orthopaedic surgeon of Bowral, and the visiting medical officer at Goulburn Base Hospital. On 1 March this year Dr Leicester examined Ms McCleary and discovered a large growth in her right knee. He also determined that her left knee was in worse condition than her right knee.
However, as Ms McCleary's right knee was more painful, he recommended that he should replace it first. Dr Leicester advised Ms McCleary that surgery on her right knee was necessary within six months, but Ms McCleary has been supplied with a date not of 23 May 2000 but 23 May 2001 for knee replacement surgery at Goulburn Base Hospital. It is not within six months at all but is 18 months away. Ms McCleary is in constant pain, despite taking painkillers, and finds it difficult to walk. Mrs Isabella Whybrow of Goulburn is also on the waiting list at Goulburn Base Hospital. Like Ms McCleary, Mrs Whybrow is in desperate need of joint replacement surgery. Mrs Whybrow has suffered pain in her left knee for four years. Last September she was told by Dr Leicester that her left knee must be replaced but that due to the waiting list at Goulburn Base Hospital the replacement operation cannot be performed until February 2001.
Dr Leicester considers Mrs Whybrow's case to be so severe that he has placed her on the urgent list but is yet to receive a date earlier than February 2001. Mrs Whybrow is in excruciating pain and says that her condition has severely restricted her lifestyle. For example, she has to take a chair to sit on when she does her shopping. Ms Edith Gooch of Goulburn also waits, in horrific pain, for joint replacement surgery at Goulburn Base Hospital. Ms Gooch requires hip replacement surgery for her right hip, which has a broken screw and a plate in it from a previous operation. She takes a constant stream of painkillers, spending up to $50 a week on painkillers alone, but still cannot sleep at night because of the pain. Ms Gooch's situation is similar to that of Goulburn's Mrs Beryl Fitzgibbon. The Minister for Health will be well aware of the case of Mrs Joan Lambert of Goulburn, who wrote to him on 10 February 2000 stating:
Mrs Lambert also wrote:
Every minute of every day, I am in excruciating pain .
Mrs Lambert has been given a tentative date for hip replacement surgery of 21 February 2001. Just this week I received notification of the case of Mr Charles Wells of Goulburn. Mr Wells' right knee is giving way due to osteoarthritis and he has been on crutches since November last year. Like others in his desperate situation, Mr Wells is also in constant agony due to his debilitating condition. He takes powerful painkillers but with little relief, and as a result his right knee needs replacement. Despite being on crutches, despite his knee giving way and despite being in constant pain, Mr Wells has been given a tentative date of June next year for knee replacement surgery at Goulburn Base Hospital. I could give many other examples. The cases I have referred to are just a few of many in the Southern Area Health Service. Dr Leicester is now booking joint replacement operations at Goulburn Base Hospital for June 2001—and he is just one surgeon in the State of New South Wales. The people of Burrinjuck are sick of the New South Wales Government grandstanding on health funding while decent Australians suffer in pain as they wait for elective surgery. I ask that the Minister act quickly to drastically reduce the waiting lists for elective surgery at Goulburn Base Hospital.
Unless you have had first-hand experience with pain affecting a joint to the extent of requiring a replacement, you can't imagine the pain.
Ms NORI (Port Jackson—Minister for Small Business, and Minister for Tourism) [6.12 p.m.]: I thank the honourable member for Burrinjuck for her contribution and her concerns for her constituents in relation to Goulburn Base Hospital. I undertake to have a copy of the honourable member's contribution forwarded to the Minister for Health so that he may reply directly to the honourable member. However, I ask the honourable member to acknowledge recent announcements by the Minister that have seen an injection of $2 billion into the health care system. Obviously that will assist with recurrent funding and current expenditure and address the issue of RDF, and it obviously means a significant contribution of funds to the country health system.