Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 7 Hansard (29 June) . . Page.. 2868..
MS MacDONALD: My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Health and also relates to Australian hospital statistics. Can the minister advise the Assembly of the Stanhope government's response to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report on Australian hospital statistics?
MR WOOD: In the first instance we study these reports, we value them, we pick up what they tell us, and we learn from them. They are a good incentive for us. There are many positives out of that. You would not expect Mr Smyth to want to focus on those. For example, the ACT has the highest proportion-that is, 74 per cent-of people seen on time in emergency departments. That is an area where there is most stress in any hospital, and this hospital does extremely well.
The total estimated proportion of patients admitted into hospitals from the emergency department-17 per cent-was lower than it was in other states and territories as well as lower than the national total.
In another respects, patients in the ACT spent an average of 3.4 days in public hospitals compared with four days nationally. The ACT figure decreased from 3.6 days the previous year. You can see that the systems are improving, as I have indicated. The 2002-03 figure also represents the second shortest average hospital stay, with the Northern Territory reporting the shortest. The total number of presentations in ED increased by 1.08 per cent from 95,126 patients in 2001-02 to 96,151 in 2002-03. One can see that the demand is there, but it is being handled very well indeed.
As I indicated earlier, the ACT government has put an additional $2.85 million in the 2003-04 financial year for elective surgery in response to those 2002-03 figures. This will increase the number of admissions for elective surgery in 2003-04 by more than 600 compared with the earlier year. The government responds very effectively. In addition, the government will provide another $1 million for 2004-05 to provide for 50 joint and 150 eye surgeries. This funding will target those people with the longest waits.
ACT public hospitals provide a very broad service, and our hospitals treated 635 diagnosis groups out of a possible 661 in 2002-03-something that might have slipped the mind of Mr Smyth, who I think was health minister for a time. It is an extremely heavy demand on our hospital system. We are supporting a small health system, but we get very comprehensive care. This has reduced the need to transfer interstate, though the average cost per patient is still increasing as a result of that very wide range of services.
Drawing comparisons between state and ACT hospitals and a national average can be misleading. Both ACT public hospitals are teaching hospitals and should be compared with similar sites providing similar services and, indeed, a similar range of services. The national average combines costs from many types of hospitals, ranging from small sites with lower costs to large teaching hospitals providing expensive specialist services.