Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 5 Hansard (31 May) . . Page.. 1303..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
Torres Strait children in this city. The task force is made up of the heads of the departments of health, education and disability, housing and community services and is chaired by Ms Sandra Lambert.
What I want to see—and what I am starting to see—is a truly whole-of-government approach to indigenous children. What I want is not to react after a child comes to the attention of the system but to have the system see, hear and act on the very earliest warning signs, and to jump in, providing the support that is necessary for boys, girls and their families.
Hearing what our indigenous people themselves have to say about their needs and aspirations is crucial. We have a ministerial advisory body and we have the United Ngunnawal Elders Council. But since the shameful abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission by the Howard government we have had no elected voice articulating the desires and thoughts of the ATSI community in Canberra or in Australia. That is why I have committed this government to the election of a representative indigenous body which will have that job and which I believe will assist us in achieving, in time, true reconciliation.
MRS BURKE: My question is to the minister for health. Minister, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has just released its latest report on the performance of public hospitals. This report shows that the performance of emergency departments in the ACT's public hospitals continues to be the poor relative of that of hospitals in other jurisdictions. In the ACT, 80 per cent of people presenting to the emergency department are classified in triage categories 3 and 4. Minister, what precise actions are you taking to ensure that the people who are classified in categories 3 and 4 are treated in time, in accordance with national benchmarks?
MS GALLAGHER: Over that reporting period, the number of presentations in the emergency department increased overall, against all five triage categories, by 6.3 per cent, up to a total of around 99,622—pretty much equally split between both our public hospitals: Calvary 46,000 and TCH 52,000. Of these presentations, the biggest increases in triage categories were in categories 3 and 4. We saw decreases in category 5 during this time, but categories 3 and 4 saw increases of between 19 per cent and 14 per cent over the two years—between 2004-05 and 2005-06—to make up the total of 80 per cent of total ED presentations.
We have funded a range of initiatives in the emergency department. We have had the access improvement program go in. It is a workplace design solution for areas which delay or tie up staff unnecessarily. There has been a range of minor workplace solutions put in place to deal with the waits and make sure that people are seen on time. We have implemented the fast-track service to deal with the less urgent cases—that they get through quickly. We have the after-hours GP services working, which we subsidise—again as a way of ensuring that we can free up emergency department time to deal with the more serious, more urgent patients.
We recently opened the MAPU, which will take patients who present to emergency and who are quite complex. There were often long delays in their being seen and