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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 8 Hansard (3 August) . . Page.. 3317..


MR SPEAKER: Order! Before we move to the first question, I welcome year 5 and 6 students from Sts Peter and Paul Primary School, Garran, who are sitting in the gallery.

Questions without notice

Canberra Hospital-emergency policy

MR SMYTH: My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Health. Last month the Canberra Hospital was full to capacity with every bed occupied. In fact, nurses at the hospital wanted to change to what they call "internal disaster mode"because the hospital could not safely take more patients, but hospital management refused this request. I understand that staff wanted a hospital policy set down to cover these situations. Obviously, they anticipate that this government's policies will continue to increase pressure on the hospital.

Indeed, Ms Goodwin, an industrial officer for the Australian Nurses Federation at the Canberra Hospital, is anticipating a vicious circle when elective surgery resumes: beds in the hospital become full and the emergency department becomes blocked. Why was the hospital not put into internal disaster mode, as requested by the staff?

MR WOOD: The administrators did not so decide. The government and I take great interest in the wellbeing of the hospital and pay very careful attention to it. In the three years of this government, we have continually put more and more money into it, as we did in the last budget. The budget figures show the very greatly increased expenditures at the hospital, for a whole range of reasons.

Let me give an account of a meeting I had just last week. I was out of town at a meeting of health ministers. It was very interesting and very instructive, part of the reason being that over the last couple of meetings they have invited clinicians from around Australia-one from each state or territory-to come to address health ministers. This is a good process. I was interested to hear their words. One or two of them spoke of a crisis in hospitals and in health care. At the end of that session, which took an hour or so, one of the ministers got up and said, "Let's stop this talk about crisis in health care and in hospitals. It's a word too easily used."Of course, it is frequently used over there.

Mr Smyth: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It is nice to hear stories about a health minister's conference, but the question was about the policy that the Nurses Federation was requesting be put in place in the Canberra Hospital. Perhaps the minister could come to his answer.

MR SPEAKER: Minister, come to the point of the question.

MR WOOD: I will give Mr Smyth the punchline. The minister who made those comments claiming that hospitals and health care in Australia were the best in the world was Mr Tony Abbott. I might not always agree with Mr Abbott, but I certainly did on this occasion.

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