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Wednesday, 16 March 1977
Page: 246

Dr CASS (MARIBYRNONG, VICTORIA) -Does the Minister for Health support the rigorous evaluation of the qualifications and experience of salaried specialists before they can be appointed to practise in Canberra hospitals? If so, how can he justify supporting the present practice at these hospitals which allows any doctor registered in the Australian Capital Territory to work in them with full and unsupervised privileges without rigorous evaluation of their qualifications and experience? Is this practice of allowing such unsupervised medical practice in Canberra hospitals in keeping with a proper concern for high quality health care in these hospitals or for that matter in any public hospitals in Australia?

Mr HUNT (GWYDIR, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Health) - The honourable member will recall that this Government inherited the problems and difficulties within the medical profession in Canberra which arose as a result of some very unfortunate political decisions that were taken by the former Government. These decisions caused divisions between visiting medical officers and salaried specialists in Canberra. We appointed Professor Hughes, a man of considerable repute and the President of the Australasian Royal College of Surgeons, to report on the situation. Professor Hughes chaired a working party consisting of representatives from the salaried specialists council and the Australian Capital Territory Medical Association. A report was duly presented to me and was tabled in the Parliament. It became the basis upon which the Government took a policy decision for the future clinical administration of the hospitals in Canberra.

The Capital Territory Health Commission has pursued in general the recommendations that arose from that report. It was decided that all doctors who were permitted to practise in those hospitals prior to the introduction of the Hughes recommendations would be able to do so but that from 1 December all doctors who wished to practise at those hospitals in the future would ave to go before the Medical Advisory Committee. Through the unit system in Canberra we have now established an inbuilt peer review system which we hope will ensure that the standards of medical practice in Canberra are at least equivalent to those that exist throughout the Commonwealth. As the honourable member would know, we have been concerned to try to improve the professional standards of the medical profession throughout the Commonwealth. Only 3 weeks ago I attended a seminar organised by the Australian Medical Association- it was boycotted by the General Practitioners' Society- to work out a system that would satisfy the wish of this Government to institute peer review. Great progress is being made and I hope that in the not too distant future I will be able to report to the Parliament in full on that matter. I am quite confident that in the future we will see a better working relationship between the private practitioners and the salaried staff, for whom I have the highest regard. The peer review should ensure that we have proper standards in Canberra.

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