Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 2 Hansard (24 February) . . Page.. 596..
MS GALLAGHER (continuing):
actually mislead the community by implying that it is within the ACT government's powers to improve the bulk-billing rate is a mislead of the community.
MR SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Mr Smyth?
MR SMYTH: Yes, thank you, Mr Speaker, given that she could not answer that question. Minister, why do you consider that the system is performing very well when we have people waiting years for elective surgery?
MS GALLAGHER: Our elective surgery program is running to full capacity. I think there are always ways we can improve and look at ways to improve the service. We are providing 10,000 elective surgery procedures this financial year and, whilst we are delivering 10,000, around 11,000 people will join the list. Our theatres are running to full capacity, with our staff running to full capacity—
Mr Smyth: Are they all open?
MS GALLAGHER: You cannot run all the theatres all the time—unlike the Liberal Party, who pretend that they could run all the elective theatres all the time. It is simply incorrect. Our theatres, our theatre lists, are running to full capacity. Our emergency work is busier than ever before. The people who need urgent access to elective surgery get it. Our emergency access to elective surgery is, I think, the best in the country, and we should be proud of that.
That is not to say that you cannot improve or that you cannot do more or that you cannot change the way you do things. But, as our community ages and the demand for elective surgery grows, this is going to be a challenge for governments to manage. I do not stand here and pretend that it is not a challenge. But what you continue to do is increase your throughput, increase your capacity, increase your staff, and that will deliver the improvements in elective surgery—and that is what we are doing. You do not measure the performance of your elective surgery on the median waiting time. It is one way of looking at it. It is one way of measuring the elective surgery program; but it is not the only way.
MR HARGREAVES: A supplementary, Mr Speaker?
MR SPEAKER: Yes, Mr Hargreaves.
MR HARGREAVES: With respect to the elective surgery rates, could the minister please tell us whether or not the closure of 114 beds by the Carnell government, of which Mr Smyth was a minister, had a detrimental effect on that waiting list and what effect it did have on the cost?
MS GALLAGHER: It has taken this government, I think, eight years to get back to a national average bed number. I think you will see in all the latest data those numbers have been increasing all the time. I know those opposite cannot bear to hear that the outcome of their handling of the health system, which was to reduce bed numbers across the city, is something that this community has paid for ever since.