Mr HAMILTON-SMITH (Waite) (15:26): I want to speak about the crisis that is becoming more and more evident within our health system and address two issues: the mental health crisis involving both Yatala and James Nash House and the overcrowding of the Lyell McEwin Hospital and the report that was tabled today by the minister. Let me start with the Lyell McEwin Hospital. The report is a very interesting read, and I will examine it in detail, but I will say at the outset that, in my view, the minister has, to a degree, if not misrepresented the report, certainly coloured it in the political direction he wants it to take.
I observe that SASMOA's Dr Pope stated from the outset that he understood doctors had been asked to assess patients on the floor, not that they had been made to do so. The report bears that out, with a finding that a doctor recorded a comment regarding the treatment of a patient on the floor but did not treat that patient on the floor and was unsure about the comments, or the direction, that was given to him. So, it would appear that a doctor was asked to treat a patient on the floor.
Secondly, I note the findings are that on that evening it was not possible to fill all nursing shifts in the ED. The ED was understaffed, which is exactly what SASMOA stated. I also note that the report observes that the department did run out of barouches, there were no beds and that patients were seen on a chair on the floor. What the minister is doing is using semantics: because they were not laid out on the floor, he is saying they were not seen on the floor. I am not sure if that was SASMOA's intention. If they were seen in a chair on the floor then, arguably, they were seen on the floor. If there were not enough barouches for them, they could not be laid out, as SASMOA stated, creating all the sorts of issues that SASMOA pointed out to the public on 18 and 23 May.
There were a number of other very concerning issues raised in the report. To say that this report in any way exonerates or somehow wipes away the problems of that night, which was described in the report as the busiest night of the year at the Lyell McEwin Hospital, when the emergency department was simply overwhelmed, are just wrong statements from the minister. So, I think this is a report that has been carefully crafted and presented today to try to make things look as though they are quite different to what they were.
I congratulate SASMOA and various other colleges of doctors who have spoken out about their professional concerns in recent months. There is bullying and pressure being applied to doctors by the administration in an effort to silence them, and I commend them for their courage in standing up and being counted. That sort of coercion, that sort of bullying, that sort of pressure—and I think this is another attempt at it, in a sense—is unwelcome, and doctors should be free, where they fear for a patient's safety, to speak up. I commend them for doing so.
I want to move to the issue of mental health and just say, 'What a mess. What a mess we have heard today.' For the health minister to have compared the circumstances surrounding the prisoner, Jacqui, with the behaviour of naughty children in a school class—and I read his remarks into Hansard today—is simply disgraceful. He tried to wriggle out of it today, but his own words demonstrated his disregard for the patient, for those who are mentally ill, and for the clinical staff who treat them. Frankly, he should be ashamed of those remarks; they should never have been made in the first place.
Clearly, there is a complete argument between the Minister for Correctional Services and the Minister for Health about this patient. The Minister for Correctional Services says that she is mentally ill and the Minister for Health says she is not. It looks as though, with this patient, it is all in the just too-hard basket. It appears as though the Minister for Correctional Services and the Minister for Health are going to send this patient off to Melbourne. If that happens, if they have to send this patient off to Melbourne to be cared for, both of them should resign. They will have basically put up the white flag and said, 'We can't cope, we're not managing, we can't care for this mentally ill patient either in our prison system or in James Nash House. We have just given up.'
If the Liberal government in Victoria has to rescue them, they both really should just go because frankly, on this issue, they have been exposed as having delivered ruin. They have each had to give three or four different versions about what they knew when, they have both had to run back into the house and correct their remarks and clarify when they first knew of things. Of course, as it has turned out it did not really matter because they did absolutely nothing. They are both a disgrace.