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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 8 Hansard (5 August) . . Page.. 3506..


Visitors

MR SPEAKER: I would like to welcome to the Assembly two groups: on the opposition side of the public gallery, a group of overseas parliamentary officers taking part in the Australian National University's program on responsible parliamentary government; and on the government side of the public gallery, a group of students from the University of the Third Age. On behalf of all members of the Assembly, I welcome you to our Assembly.

Questions without notice

Ambulance service

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Acting Minister for Health and minister for emergency services. Yesterday you confirmed that it was now regular practice to use ACT ambulances as hospital beds, requiring us to ask the New South Wales ambulance service to provide ambulances in response to ACT work. I will repeat your words:

I said yesterday that it is often very busy and sometimes it reaches capacity. On those occasions, because of the processes in place between the ambulance service and the emergency department-and sometimes it takes a while for the ambulance to move on-it is necessary to call on other services.

Minister, in estimates on 26 May, the head of the department of health, Dr Sherbon, said:

It's highly unusual in the territory.

He advised that an incident earlier in May was the first occurrence where a patient had been kept in an ambulance for a "significant period of time". Minister, why has the situation in the hospital system deteriorated so badly that what was a highly unusual situation in May has become relatively commonplace in the past three months?

MR WOOD: Mr Smyth, there is no problem here, as much as you would like to see one. Whether this occurs regularly, I do not know. What is regular? The fact is that less than once a month we call on the services of an ambulance from New South Wales, which, of course, would be from Queanbeyan. That is not very much, is it?

In the last five weeks-since these figures are kept on a financial year basis-there has been one occasion. I think it is comparatively rare; it is not commonplace; it is not usual. From time to time we do need to call on these services.

I might mention that, in the period since we have called on one ambulance from New South Wales, we have sent 15 over the border. In the year before that, ambulances came in on nine occasions from New South Wales. On something over 80 occasions we sent ambulances over the border. That is a good, cooperative arrangement. No problem with that! Do you have a problem with that?

MR SMYTH: Minister, why has the hospital system deteriorated so badly that we now have an ambulance being used as a ward at least once a month and 38 bypasses in the


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