Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 9 Hansard (19 August) . . Page.. 3222..
MS GALLAGHER (continuing):
That process is now underway. The steering group is no longer needed to provide advice to me, because the process for the EIS, the statutory process, is now underway.
MR SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Mrs Dunne?
MRS DUNNE: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Minister, did you sack the steering group because your government could not control what they were doing or what they might say?
MS GALLAGHER: No.
MS PORTER: My question is to the Minister for Health. Minister, could you update the Assembly on how the government's announced overhaul of the public health system is already delivering for the people of the ACT?
MS GALLAGHER: I thank Ms Porter for the question. When we took government in 2001, we inherited a health system with many problems, not least of them the 114 beds that had been cut from the system, the unhappy doctors and nurses working within the system—in fact, one of the first things we had to respond to was paying nurses adequate remuneration that had not been provided for in the budget—and the chronic lack of planning around health infrastructure.
We have corrected these mistakes and we have gone much further. In fact, we have almost doubled the health budget. In recent weeks we have announced our complete 10-year plan for the future on how to provide our community's health system with the services and the buildings that they require. We have restored the 114 beds cut from the system and we have increased those numbers even more. By the end of 2008-09, we will have funded an additional 172 beds across our public health system and our system will provide, for the first time in many years, over 800 publicly funded hospital beds.
Our investment is leading to new, lower levels of bed occupancy rates, with the third quarter showing the bed occupancy rate down to 86 per cent—a drop from 92 per cent. For the benefit of Mrs Burke, who has never really understood bed occupancy rates, I say that it is good to have them falling. We are driving year-on-year record levels of elective surgery throughput. Our system has already provided 7,847 procedures to the end of April this year. This is 348 procedures above the figures for last year and it puts us on track to provide record levels of elective surgery procedures again. Year on year, we have been delivering record levels of elective surgery.
In relation to the critical area of mental health, where we have slumped to the worst per capita spending in the country, we have increased investment by 143 per cent and now enjoy the second-highest per capita spending in the country. This is coupled with the best investment in the community mental health sector of any jurisdiction, and groundbreaking reforms such as the nation's first step-up, step-down facility.