Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 21 November 2007) . . Page.. 3654 ..
Last week, on November 15, the Prime Minister announced the coalition’s plan to take pressure off public hospitals—unlike federal Labor, who would simply take over the public hospitals. That is a clear sign, and it is true.
Mr Barr: Oh!
MRS BURKE: Mr Barr sits laughing, but it is true. You can just imagine Mr Rudd trembling in his shoes being totally worried about the states and territories—all Labor controlled, of course. To me, that is indicative of poor leadership, poor management and the dreadful problems that we are seeing through public hospitals throughout Australia. Taking over hospitals is a clear sign of how worried the federal opposition are at the moment. It appears that they are even bigger control merchants than the Stanhope government.
When re-elected, the federal coalition plans to restore hospital boards nationally to make decisions about local hospitals; to have more Australian trained doctors, nurses and specialists; to have more alternatives to help take the pressure off public hospitals; and to have more public hospital beds. Mr Howard has said that we will make the states and territories more accountable for the taxpayer funding they receive to run and manage public hospitals. That is the thing that is under question here. How much scrutiny, as a sovereign state, is actually provided to the commonwealth once we receive the money? Not much, I am told—not much. That is wrong. I do not think that people should just toss money at other people with no accountability attached. This is what hospital boards would do it—really drill down.
Further, as part of the Australian healthcare agreements, state and territory governments will be required to make available detailed information about individual hospital performance, including staffing levels and elective surgery and emergency department waiting times. It is all about more accountability. As I have said, that is something that the Stanhope government constantly shies away from.
To enable public hospitals to upgrade their facilities and ensure that their patients can benefit from the latest medical technology, in August this year the coalition established the health and medical investment fund. Members may remember that or not; it involves some $2.5 billion of investment. Earnings from this investment will not be provided directly to governments, but will be provided directly—to whom?—to hospital boards.
This is another thing that is unsettling for the Stanhope government. Again, as I say, it is removal of control and power. Thanks to the sound economic management we have had from the federal coalition, the fund will have an ongoing revenue stream from future surpluses. State and territory governments will be required to report detailed information about individual hospital performance, including staffing levels and elective surgery and emergency department waiting times. Ms Gallagher would argue that we do that already, but I would argue that we do not do it comprehensively enough, and I think that is what would be required here.
The bill proposes an excellent solution to the miscellany of challenges currently faced by our public hospitals. It is not the be-all and end-all; it is one part of the solution. It