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Thursday, 5 December 2013
Page: 1798

Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records


Mr SUKKAR (Deakin) (14:41): My question is to the Minister for Health. Will the minister tell the House how many of my constituents who have registered their details on the personally controlled electronic health records system would be able to have their records accessed if they presented at Maroondah Hospital in my electorate of Deakin?


Mr DUTTON (DicksonMinister for Health and Minister for Sport) (14:41): Thank you to the member for Deakin. It is great to have a great member back in Deakin. He is a good man. He is working hard for his electorate already. He is very, very concerned about the health needs of the constituents in his electorate. I knew that he had an interest in this electronic health record, or the PCEHR, as it is known.

I knew that we should try and answer this question in a meaningful way, so I said to my department, 'Let's work out on a percentage basis how many of his constituents can turn up to an emergency department and have their electronic health record accessed on the computer system there.' The first thing, of course, was to establish how many people are in his electorate: 126,672, according to the latest census. But there was a problem. There was a big problem. The department said, 'Minister, we cannot provide you with a percentage figure.' I said: 'Surely it's easy. We now know the population. We want to know how many people can access the computer system in the public hospital when they turn up'—not a big ask, I thought. So I said to the department, 'Please, we have to work harder on this.' They said, 'Minister, it can't be done.' I said, 'Let's apply more resources to it.' In any case, they came back to me and said, 'Minister, the reason that it can't be done is that the former government forgot to talk to the hospitals or the doctors about how these systems should work in the public hospitals,' so the answer of course is that zero, not one, of those 126,000 people who might turn up to the local public hospital in the member for Deakin's electorate can get their record accessed on the computer system within that hospital.

The level of incompetence knows no bounds when it comes to the Health portfolio during the time of the previous Labor government. The previous minister looks bewildered. She looks bewildered and befuddled. But it is true, Tanya. It is true. You forgot to talk to the doctors and hospitals.

Mr Burke: Madam Speaker—

The SPEAKER: The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat, and the minister will refer to people by their correct titles.

Mr DUTTON: Of course, Madam Speaker.

Mr Snowdon interjecting

The SPEAKER: And the member for Lingiari will desist!

Mr DUTTON: I say to the member for Sydney, who looks befuddled and bewildered: it is true. You did not talk to the doctors.

The SPEAKER: I did ask the minister to refer to—

An honourable member: He did.

The SPEAKER: Okay, fine.

Mr Burke: Madam Speaker, I raise a point of order. This minister has gone further away from direct relevance than anyone else on that front bench—anyone else. The point of order I wanted to take earlier was not only about referring to people by their titles but that what he is talking about is completely irrelevant to the question that he was asked, and he should be brought back into line.

The SPEAKER: I call the honourable Minister for Health and remind him to address the question before the chair.

Mr DUTTON: To try to provide some enlightenment to the former minister, I will leave her with these facts. They announced the personally-controlled electronic health record three and a half years ago. Eighteen months ago the former minister jumped up and said that the system—

Ms King interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Ballarat will desist.

Mr DUTTON: The system was going live and this was a great time for our country. A billion dollars was spent by the previous government, and 10,000 Australians out of 23 million have a record for which a doctor has uploaded a summary of their health information. Do the maths for a second, and it works out to $100,000 per patient.

Government members interjecting

Mr DUTTON: There is shock on this side, but by that side's standard it is not a bad outcome, I suspect.