Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008-2009 Week 1 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 77..
MR HANSON (continuing):
2007-08 ACT Health annual report, is 89 per cent. The AMA public hospital report card of 2008, citing the Australian College of Emergency Medicine, has stated that bed occupancy rates over 85 per cent are dangerously high. Minister, why are bed occupancy rates dangerously high and when will you do something about it?
MS GALLAGHER: I thank Mr Hanson for the question. The bed occupancy rates are high because the hospitals are busy. In fact, the bed occupancy rate, since we have been publishing and publicly reporting this figure, has come down. I think a couple of years ago they were into the 90s. So we are actually trending downwards on our bed occupancy rate. We have set ourselves the target of 85 per cent.
As additional beds come on line—and every year we have been opening at least 20 new acute care beds—we expect that bed occupancy rate to continue to decline. Eighty-nine per cent is not where we want to be but it is trending in the right direction. Essentially, the only answer to it, apart from trying to keep people out of hospital in the first instance, is to open more beds. And we are doing exactly that.
MR SPEAKER: A supplementary question from Mr Hanson.
MR HANSON: Minister, when will you set a benchmark that is below the dangerous rate of 85 per cent and when will we achieve that?
MS GALLAGHER: I believe we have. From memory, it is 85 per cent that we have set ourselves as a target.
Mrs Dunne: It is dangerously high.
MS GALLAGHER: Well, I think that is a realistic target to want to achieve considering we are coming down from the nineties. Ninety-three per cent was the figure when we started publicly reporting bed occupancy. We have come down to 89, we are setting ourselves a target of 85 and when we reach 85 we will review that target.
The government has made some very significant announcements around additional beds, additional infrastructure at the hospital and additional services, both to keep people's stay in hospital short and to keep people out of hospital in the first instance. I expect that once we reach that target of 85 we will be able to review that target. I think there is a view that in major public hospitals, such as Calvary and Canberra hospitals are, it would be unusual if we can get it below 85 per cent. We are a referral hospital for the region. Of course, it is something that we would like to see, but let us reach 85 per cent first and review the target after that.
MR COE: My question is to the Minister for Health. Minster, the AMA has stated that for presentations in triage categories 3 and 4 in emergency departments a target of 80 per cent is achievable in the short term, up from 70 per cent, and 100 per cent should be the objective in the medium term.