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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2013 Week 10 Hansard (14 August) . . Page.. 2996..


Health—cardiac survival rates

MS PORTER: Madam Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister for Health. Can the minister advise the Assembly about the improvements that have been made to cardiac survival rates in the ACT over the past decade?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Ms Porter for her question on the very important issue of cardiac survival rates in the ACT and the improvements we have seen over the past decade. I believe this is an issue that has been canvassed in the media over the last month, where recognition was given to the ACT health system for the improvements that have been seen in both the access to treatment and the consequential survival rate.

In July this year, the Heart Foundation released statistics compiled from ABS data showing that heart attack death rates across Australia have dropped dramatically over the past decade. Nationwide, the reduction was 39 per cent over the past decade, but the ACT saw the most significant drop, 60 per cent, between 2001 and 2011. In 2001, 146 people in the ACT died from heart attack, and by 2011 this had reduced to 70.

This is important and I think shows the gains that have been made despite the increase in our population over that period. We saw a 60 per cent decline in death rates despite a 14½ per cent increase in the ACT's population and a 95 per cent increase in the number of people admitted to hospital with a heart attack in the same period.

There have been many changes in medical treatment for the prevention of heart attacks over the past decade, including the use of new technologies. In the 1980s, blocked arteries were opened with the use of clot-dissolving agents. However, since the 1990s, arteries are now opened mechanically through stent insertion to open the arteries. Canberra was one of the first hospitals to perform this type of procedure.

There are many other processes that have been developed to ensure that treatment is carried out quickly, with early activation and intervention. Optimal treatment for a heart attack is within 90 minutes, with early administration of thrombolytic therapy, which is a medication given to dissolve clots within a time critical time frame. Also, patients in cardiac arrest are triaged category 1 and seen immediately. Patients who present who chest pain of a likely cardiac nature would be categorised as category 2, to be seen within 10 minutes.

The Canberra Hospital does very well in this regard. We have also led the way with cross-border access to cardiac services which provides patients who live in southern New South Wales access to early diagnosis and rapid treatment for heart attacks. Through a joint initiative, New South Wales paramedics treating patients with a possible heart attack are now able to acquire and electronically transmit an electrocardiogram to the Canberra Hospital emergency department, enabling urgent decisions to be made regarding appropriate treatment.

This is a success story for the ACT health system. It is a success story for the emergency department and the way that people presenting with cardiac troubles, cardiac symptoms and in cardiac arrest are treated quickly and are able to receive


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