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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1997 Week 9 Hansard (4 September) . . Page.. 2921..

MRS CARNELL: Mr Speaker, unfortunately, Mr Whitecross does not understand how hospitals are funded. It is done on the basis of cost-weighted separations. The actual number of patients under casemix funding is then converted into cost-weighted separations which are based on the level of acuity; in other words, how sick the patients are. Obviously, a sicker patient will require more days in hospital and more costs, and that is the basis of AN-DRGs and casemix funding.

In 1996-97 the Canberra Hospital achieved 40,191 cost-weighted separations in comparison to 39,902 recorded in 1995-96. This represents an increase of 289 cost-weighted separations on 1995-96. In fact, the Canberra Hospital's activity will be higher than this, due to approximately 1.6 per cent of records currently outstanding for the third and fourth quarters of 1996-97 that still need coding. Activity for Calvary Public Hospital was also up on 1995-96. In 1996-97 Calvary Public Hospital achieved 11,464 cost-weighted separations in comparison with 10,702 in 1995-96. This represents a rise of 762, or 7.1 per cent, on the previous year. In addition, 39 cost-weighted separations were purchased and delivered from Canberra Eye Surgery in 1996-97. Overall, the ACT public hospital system achieved more activity in 1996-97 when compared with 1995-96. In 1996-97 a total of 51,694 cost-weighted separations were achieved, in comparison to 50,604 in 1995-96. This represents an increase of 1,090 cost-weighted separations on 1995-96.

To put it simply for Mr Whitecross, that means that the patients that we looked after this year had a higher acuity. That means that they were sicker. That is exactly what you would expect, Mr Speaker, with the move to casemix funding and, most importantly, the move to become a clinical school and a centre for the whole region. As we lift our service levels and take on things like cardiac surgery - the list goes on - we can expect to become a centre for patients who require high levels of service.

MR WHITECROSS: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. It is good to see that the Chief Minister's throat has not made her answers more concise. Chief Minister, am I to take it from your answer that the Canberra community was actually sicker in the last 12 months under your Government than they were before? Or is it that they were sicker over the last financial year because John Howard is the Prime Minister now? What steps are you taking to address the massive extra cost of our already very expensive health system, so that when more money is spent on health more patients are treated rather than less?

MRS CARNELL: I thought I just gave a very concise answer on how there was an increase of 1,090 cost-weighted separations last year on the year before. That is a level of detail that simply would not have existed in the past. Those opposite make the point of Canberrans being sicker. Mr Speaker, what is actually happening here, as is happening all around Australia - but I think we are doing it very well in the ACT - is that people who are less sick are being treated at home. They are being treated by domiciliary care services, hospital in the home approaches. In other words, people are not being unnecessarily admitted to hospital for conditions for which they do not need to be in a critical care facility. As we continue down the path of being a tertiary referral centre we can expect this approach to continue.

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