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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2014 Week 9 Hansard (16 September) . .

Page.. 2727..

Questions without notice

Canberra Hospital—bed occupancy rates

MR HANSON: My question is to the Minister for Health. Minister, on 1 September 2014 a senior staff member at the Canberra Hospital, Dr Michael Hall, said that current patient numbers are "unsafe" and "unsustainable". When referring to hospital bed occupancy rates, he said:

Ninety-five per cent is unsafe ... once you reach above 90 the hospital is under stress, once you reach above 95 the hospital is seriously under stress.

Dr Hall went on to say:

So it increases time in hospital, it increases costs, it increases complications and in fact it increases mortality.

He suggested that the hospital could also be more efficient by ensuring that more of its services operate on a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week model. Minister, are the current high bed occupancy rates making the Canberra Hospital unsafe and unsustainable?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the question. In relation to the bed occupancy levels, they are certainly placing the hospital under pressure. Any hospital that is operating at that level of occupancy is going to be under pressure. I would like to put on the record my thanks to all the staff, particularly over the last month, for the extremely busy circumstances in which they have been working. I know that executive staff at the hospital have been working, particularly with the emergency department but also with other clinical leaders across the hospital, to put in place short-term and longer term planning about how to deal with this continued spike in activity that we are seeing.

For example, in 2013-14 there were 125,890 presentations across our hospital emergency departments. This was 6,921 more presentations than last year and it was a six per cent increase, and an 18 per cent increase compared with four years ago.

In terms of what the government can do to respond to this, and this is something that is monitored every day—in fact, several times a day—we are continuing to look at strategies which include opening extra beds which are coming on line in Canberra Hospital in September this year and at Calvary Hospital in January 2015 and also looking at other ways, for example through our elective surgery program, to take elective surgery work out of Canberra, as it continues to be a magnet for presentations across the region.

So it is not ideal—no-one is pretending it is—and senior staff are working very hard to deal with the level of activity. On Sunday, for example, there were 226 presentations to Canberra Hospital. I think there were 150-odd at Calvary. So Canberra is getting nearly 90 more patients a day, and that is on a slow day; Sunday is traditionally not a day of high activity. It is to some degree unexplained. We have the new after-hours medical service that is operating—the home doctor visiting service.

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