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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 2 Hansard (2 March) . . Page.. 486..


MR SMYTH (continuing):

service. I believe that the staff at Canberra hospital-doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, administrative staff, social workers, cleaners, caterers, and anyone else-all do an outstanding job. However, we cannot escape the fact that the hospital is in crisis-a crisis caused by the shortsighted approach and mismanagement of that hospital by this government.

Yesterday we all awoke to an article on the front page of the Canberra Times entitled "Hospital system hits new low. ACT pays more for less: study."The first paragraph of that article reads:

The ACT public hospital system has become the least cost-effective in the country as administration costs escalate by 51 per cent.

The article goes on to state:

The ACT provides 265 treatments per $1 million spent compared with the national average of 331, and has overtaken the Northern Territory as the least cost-effective public hospital system, according to the latest Productivity Commission report into government services.

That is an appalling turn of events. Darwin hospital, a traditional wooden spooner, has been given the name "wooden spooner"for good reason. Everything in Darwin is more expensive. It has numerous logistical nightmares and it has to cope with a small population. Canberra is not located in the tropics, it is not isolated from other capitals by millions of square kilometres of desert, and it is not reliant on airfreight. Canberra has a highly urbanised population of 330,000, yet its hospital has a worse rating than a hospital that is hamstrung by those factors. Let us remove those factors and acknowledge that staff at Canberra hospital are doing their best. Where does the responsibility lie for the crisis in which that hospital now finds itself? It lies fairly and squarely at the feet of this Labor government-a government that is too driven by bitterness and warped idealism to loosen its control on Canberra hospital and that throws an ever-increasing amount of money at it as a simplistic solution.

What have we got for that extra money? Administration costs are up by 51 per cent. No wonder the waiting lists are out of control! Who can forget those heady days of just over two years ago when delegates to the health summit were told that the first action of the reformed department of health would be to create two new deputy chief executive officer positions-$1.5 million out the door over the life of those contracts? Has the creation of these two new uber executive positions not created handsome dividends? What about patient satisfaction? The Press Ganey report-a major report and not some sort of passing fancy, as the Minister would have us believe-puts Canberra hospital in the bottom 10 per cent of peer group hospitals or similar hospitals around the country.

At first one could be forgiven for thinking that that was not true and that only one area of the hospital brought down the overall score. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Canberra hospital scored badly across all areas of inpatient services. Even in its better performing areas, such as nursing care, it barely made it into the twentieth percentile. Opposition members are not making up those statistics; this is the result of a statistically valid tool, known as the preceptor, being run by the market leader in hospital satisfaction surveys around the world.


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