Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 2 Hansard (19 February) . . Page.. 342..
MR HARGREAVES: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Chief Minister in his capacity as Minister for Health. Can the minister confirm that the Canberra Hospital is currently experiencing unexpected demand on its services? What impact is this having on the provision of those services?
MR STANHOPE: Yes, I can confirm that there has been, and we are currently in the midst of, an unseasonal surge in presentations to the emergency department of the hospital. That has been occurring for the last few weeks. The number of patients admitted through the emergency department over the past four weeks is just under 4 per cent higher than for the same period last year. That change is significant in itself, but of particular concern is that, of those patients presenting at the emergency department, the number assessed as category 1 or category 2-those with the most urgent and pressing issues-has increased by 30 per cent compared to the same period last year.
That is indeed putting significant pressure on the Canberra Hospital, and the impact of those changes on the provision of services is quite obvious. So far in February this year-that is, over the last three weeks-the increase in demand has resulted in the deferral of elective surgery for 16 patients, although all will be treated within clinically appropriate times.
MR HARGREAVES: I have a supplementary question. What is the government doing to address this situation, and what impact is the lack of vacancies in residential aged care facilities having?
MR STANHOPE: The government is continuing to use alternatives to hospital admission to reduce the impact of this unexpected demand. Notable initiatives include the hospital in the home program and Community Care support services via the LINK team. These services are also used to hasten discharge, thus freeing up resources.
There is no doubt that the number and length of stay of nursing home-type patients are contributing to the impact of the current increase in demand. We all acknowledge that this is one of our major concerns. Despite recent announcements by the Commonwealth government of increased allocations for ACT aged care facilities-and this is a matter of Commonwealth responsibility-the fact remains that the ACT is suffering a significant shortage.
At the moment Morling Lodge is providing care in its transitional care project for seven former aged care patients from the Canberra Hospital, which has helped to ease the situation somewhat. But the only long-term solution is for the Commonwealth to acknowledge and act on its responsibilities for aged care and to stop cost shifting to the territories and states.
MR SPEAKER: Before we proceed to further questions, I would like to inform members of the presence in the gallery of three visitors from the National Assembly of Bhutan, who are here on work placement. On behalf of members of the ACT Legislative Assembly I would like to extend to them a warm welcome and I hope they find their time with us rewarding.