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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 6 Hansard (6 May) . . Page.. 1959..


MR CORBELL (continuing):

Over the last three years, there has been a consistent increase in the level of emergency admissions to ACT public hospitals. The total number of emergency admissions in 2003-04 was 17 per cent higher than in 2000-01. This has placed increasing pressure on the system to maintain elective or planned admissions and to keep waiting times at an appropriate level.

We are all aware that the demand for elective surgery has increased significantly in recent years, and I will discuss the government's response to this demand shortly. Our hospitals have experienced significant growth in demand for dialysis, cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery, and cancer and stroke services. Increased demand in these areas is expected, given the ageing of our population, and this is on top of the general across-the-aboard increases in demand for most services.

There has also been a dramatic increase in demand for acute care for newborns. In fact, there has been almost a doubling of the number of ill babies cared for at the Canberra hospital over the last four years. This is evidence of our commitment to fulfil our role as the tertiary referral centre for the region. It is also further evidence of the contraction of obstetric services available in rural and regional Australia-demand that flows directly into tertiary referral centres such as the Canberra Hospital.

Typically in health, the public debate is focused around the number of beds, number of staff and number of patients waiting for elective surgery and emergency department care. These are important issues. The Stanhope government has demonstrated in previous and current budget measures that we are responding to these needs by boosting the number of beds, the number of procedures and the number of qualified staff needed to tackle the growing number of patients seeking access to our public hospital system.

In the 2004-05 budget, Labor provided $501 million in government payment for outputs for recurrent health services-an increase of 48 per cent and a whopping $162 million more than the level provided in the last year of the previous government. This funding has not only been allocated to provide more clinical and associated staff and to increase services; it has also enabled the government to invest in essential health infrastructure-something that had been ignored by our predecessors.

As a result of this increased investment, there are now 20 per cent more people working across ACT Health than at the time we were elected. We have provided care for 11 per cent more people in 2003-04 as inpatients than in 2000-01. We provided 14 per cent more operating room procedures last year in our hospitals than were provided in 2000-01. We set the record for access to elective surgery in 2003-04, and this year we are looking like we will produce the second highest total on record. The number of more serious presentations to our emergency departments last year-that is, for triage categories 1, 2, and 3-was 30 per cent higher than in the year before the government was first elected, and 61,000 more people attended outpatient clinics in 2003-04 than in 2000-01, an increase of 23 per cent. This is a further demonstration of the gradual refocusing of care to community-based responses, where appropriate, in order to maximise health outcomes and minimise inconvenience to patients.

The government has a strong track record in responding to the growing demands being placed on our public hospital and health care system. The allocation of $533 million in


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