Page 3955 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 29 November 2022

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During annual report hearings, the CEO of Canberra Health Services told the committee the hospital only had 94 per cent of its nursing workforce available on the day of the hearing, which included the relief pool of nurses to use for these situations. We also know nurse to patient ratios have not been compliant since they were implemented, despite the minister claiming this would be completed by July this year. Nurses are burnt out, understaffed and under resourced.

Recently the commonwealth announced $775.4 million of cuts to public hospital funding and proposed a $2.4 billion cut over the next four years. Mr Barr in his response to me in question time said, “The reason we have a public policy challenge is because of a chronic underinvestment in the primary healthcare system and cuts to hospital funding. The commonwealth lifted its share from 40 to 45 but that is still short of the 50 per cent provided by the commonwealth.” Following the announcement of the federal government, I am interested to see how the Chief Minister will respond. They have not provided 50/50 funding or increased the Medicare levy and now the Territory must make up the differences that it failed to before COVID.

The Canberra Liberals wait in anticipation with $3.3 billion in spending on the horizon for the tram and a track record of dipping into the health pocket. What will become of the health system in the next two years? Our health system cannot afford any more strained resources and real funding cuts. How will the Chief Minister adequately fund the hospitals whilst spending more than $3 billion on light rail?

If the Chief Minister really thinks this is the biggest domestic public policy challenge facing our nation then he needs to report back to the Assembly why he has made cuts to our health system. If, as the Chief Minister has said, the adults are in town and the Chief Minister wants more federal help then he should write to the federal health minister and ask for an increase in funding. Above all, the Chief Minister should pay back what this government has cut from the health budget so that Canberrans can have access to the system it deserves, not the one that has been stripped by this Barr-Rattenbury government.

MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Families and Community Services and Minister for Health) (3.17): Of course, ACT Labor members in this place will not be supporting Ms Castley’s motion. In contrast to Ms Castley’s expectation, I do not have an amendment to move to this motion; I will simply speak to it and correct a number of the errors that Ms Castley has made in drafting this motion. We will be voting against it when the time comes. For members’ benefit, I will step through each of the motion’s paragraphs and state why they are either misleading statements or fundamentally misunderstanding national health funding arrangements.

Paragraph (1) of Ms Castley’s motion states that ACT health expenditure has grown at a lower rate than the commonwealth contribution to the ACT public system. For the benefit of members who are present and Ms Castley, who I am advised by my office has never asked for a briefing on how health funding works, I will quickly explain the national funding arrangements for public hospitals, as agreed between all states and territories and the commonwealth, and which have been in operation from 2013.

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