Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 2 Hansard (2 March) . . Page.. 500..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
patients all waiting up to six hours. I have had cause to go to casualty myself and, being a football coach, I have taken players there. You expect to wait around, especially on a Saturday afternoon; you expect to wait around a fair time. Waits of two to three hours some years ago were not uncommon. I can remember taking an injured player from Tuggeranong to Canberra hospital in 1999. There was not a particularly heavy waiting list that day and after about two hours he was seen. More recently, in 2002, I went back and did some coaching in fifth grade and one of the players went to hospital at about 2.30 or 3 and did not get out until about 8. Again, there were about 20 people in casualty that day.
More recently, last year, my inside centre had a broken finger or something like that and went to hospital. He waited, waited and waited, and then joined the rest of us at about 9 o'clock, having been there for six hours. So it does not surprise me when I read a document here saying that six hours is now a fairly common time for people to wait, when in the past two or three hours was common. I remember injuries in 1992 when it was about a two- to three-hour wait in casualty, and it was similar in 1999. But in more recent times my experience of six hours is backed up by this document. That clearly points to something going awfully wrong-and not just going wrong over a lengthy period of time but something going awfully wrong in a fairly short period of time. And really one has to ask: what is this government doing? What is this minister doing? Where is this money being spent? Why are we seeing ambulances having to deal with people outside the hospital rather than their being dealt with inside the hospital? Why are experienced nurses complaining that they have not seen it so bad in their lifetime of work there? And why are we having the problems that I read out from this document given to me by Mr Smyth in relation to the bed block at Canberra hospital and the nurses website?
These questions do need to be answered. This motion by Mr Smyth is a very timely one. Health has always been basically a No 1 issue for Canberrans. It is always up there with education, usually in front of education. It is of crucial importance. It is a horribly worrying situation too, considering the ageing of our population and the fact that as they age human beings do require more medical assistance; they often spend more time in hospital. It is a situation that is not going to improve unless something is done, because our population is ageing at a fairly rapid rate and we are going to have twice as many people over the age of 65 in about 20 years time. This government needs to take some action now. It does not need more reviews. It cannot afford just to tread water. Urgent action is needed; otherwise, this situation, which has in many areas got considerably worse in recent times, is only going to get worse still.
MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Community Affairs) (4.40): I am more than pleased to speak to this matter of public importance and to acknowledge the significant improvements in health care and health care delivery that are very much a mark of the last 21/2 years of this government. It is finely ironic, and an irony that has not been missed by those on this side, and I think the community at large, that the very big splash that Mr Smyth makes this week actually refers to a Productivity Commission report into the last year-or the last sort of gasps or staggerings-of the previous government.
It is finely ironic that we see the current Leader of the Opposition essentially bagging the state of the Canberra hospital that we inherited from Mr Smyth in 2001. It was a budget