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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 2 Hansard (22 Feburary) . .

Page.. 635..


It may have taken me six years to do this, but this is a 16-year-long mess. It has taken that long to develop and it will take years to fix effectively. Indeed, there are parts of the healthcare system that can be described as Dickensian. There are several issues that have led to the current problems in our health system. These include poor data, poor planning, old facilities, poor culture and poor leadership.

When there was leadership in health in 2008, the then minister for health, Ms Gallagher, warned of a "health tsunami"—I think I became bored with hearing Ms Gallagher speak about the health tsunami—that would be arriving in Canberra by 2016. This health tsunami of chronic illnesses has arrived and this government is not ready for it.

There are a number of important issues that show the ACT is not ready for the forecast health tsunami. These include long and growing waiting lists for elective surgery in some outpatient clinics; Canberra Hospital being at the highest level of alert for three months continuously in July, August and September, with reports of patients on trolleys at this time; the Canberra Hospital adult mental health unit being at, above or near 100 per cent capacity during 2016-17; and staff shortages in specialist areas. For example, we are having trouble attracting urologists after the downgrading of urology accreditation.

Despite the government tripling health expenditure over the last 10 years or so, the number of patients receiving access to public hospital services in Canberra is not rising at the same rate and many people are falling behind. This is shown by the data relating to elective surgery and emergency waiting times in the Report on government services 2018. As we all know, we have not seen quarterly performance reports for September and December last year or for the previous two years or more. But the evidence we have seen suggests that our health system worsened in the last half of last year, considering the time for which the hospital was on stage 3 alert.

Poor data leads to poor planning, which leads to poor outcomes. For the past decade the ACT government and health department have been beset with data scandals and poor data. The problems that this leads to are shown by the maternity services. The ACT government has announced that it plans to spend $70 million on upgrading the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children, but we would not have needed to spend that money if the planning had been undertaken in the first place.

As I alluded to last week, at the time of the announcement of the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children, before it was even named the Centenary hospital, the then minister for health made a point of saying that there was not one new bed in the space, that what they were doing was replicating the number of beds already available in the hospital and that they were putting it in a better facility with better circulation space.

The government clearly failed to plan for new beds. Now the Centenary hospital has been open for five years it has become a chronic problem. The number of babies born in Canberra has surged by 24 per cent between 2010-11 and 2014-15. In 2016 Ms Jenny Miragaya, the then head of the ACT branch of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, raised concerns about the staff of the Centenary hospital


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