Page 760 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 28 March 2023

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Canberrans rely on our health system to be there when they need it, and ACT Labor is committed to investing in a system that delivers better healthcare closer to home.

A couple of weeks before this, the Chief Minister requested a costing for an election commitment to upgrade and expand the existing endoscopy facilities at the Canberra Hospital.

The proposal was meant to deliver an additional 5,000 endoscopy procedures, meeting the growing need for diagnosis and detection of many conditions—including some cancers. ACT Labor’s plan was to commence scoping and planning for the project in 2020-2021, with the refurbishment of existing rooms to commence in 2021-22.
A contractor was selected to examine the feasibility of these upgrades in May 2022, a later date than what was in their election commitment. To the best of my knowledge, construction has not started on these facilities.

As of 31 October 2022, more than 6,000 endoscopy and colonoscopy patients were overdue and waiting an average of 399 days across all triage categories. Remember that Labor’s plan for better health care is “where and when Canberrans need it”! That seems to be in stark contradiction to these October figures. More than 6,000 colonoscopy and endoscopy patients—Canberrans needing treatment—are not receiving care when they need it. Urgent patients are being seen within an average wait time of 47 days, when they should be seen in 14. Category 1 patients are being seen within 283 days; on average they should be seen within 30 days. Category 2 patients are being seen within 471 days on average, when they should be seen within 90 days. Category 3 patients are being seen within 449 days on average, when they should be seen in 365 days.

These figures are abysmal. What makes it even worse is that in a recent ABC article, gastroenterologists said that they were calling for more facilities back in 2009—in 2009! They now believe that the facilities will have to double to keep up with demand. What did the government do with that information back in 2009? Well, they took 11 years before making an expansion an election commitment. Once they made it an election commitment, they still did not complete these upgrades, and this service is not keeping up with demand.

There is one thing that this government is very good at, and that is promising everything and delivering something completely different. The recent release of the Chief Minister’s capital works program report makes for more terrible reading if you work in or require services at the Canberra Hospital. My office—and I am sure, the minister’s office—receives countless emails about the unacceptable quality of Canberra Hospital facilities and equipment. Yet, under the minister’s watch only $887,000 has been spent on improving Canberra’s health infrastructure out of almost $22 million allocated. The health minister thinks it is appropriate to spend the same amount of money on a rebrand of Canberra Health Services—a marketing and political stunt as more important than improving Canberra’s health infrastructure.

I do not think I could point to a better example of how little this government values improving our health system. This money was meant to deliver new clinical


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