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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 06 Hansard (Tuesday, 22 June 2010) . . Page.. 2144 ..

MR STANHOPE: Mr Speaker, I must say that the question is not entirely clear to me.

Mr Seselja: Nor are your answers.

MR STANHOPE: The question is not clear. It strikes me that it is a question essentially about public housing, as far as I can gather. I will take the question on notice and provide a full and detailed answer.

Hospitals—waiting lists

MRS DUNNE: My question is to the Minister for Health. Minister, the number of Canberrans waiting for surgery for more than one year has increased to 10.6 per cent and it is now more than three times the national average. Minister, compared to other Australians, why do so many more Canberrans wait for over 12 months for elective surgery?

MS GALLAGHER: The answer to the question—and I think I have gone to it a number of times—is the constraints that are here in the ACT health system that are not constraints experienced in other jurisdictions. We essentially have—

Mr Seselja: More people are waiting longer. More people are waiting for more than one year.

MS GALLAGHER: Mr Seselja, I could answer the question if you could just do me the decency of sitting and listening. If a member of your party asks me a question then just let me answer it. We have two public hospitals. We have limited private hospital capacity. We have shortages in various numbers of specialties for different reasons. We have an ageing population. We have demand growing for elective surgery. We are a major regional trauma centre, and 53 per cent of the work that is done in our theatres every single day is emergency work; that is, work that is unplanned or unknown at the beginning of that day. We do not have larger numbers of hospitals to share the load around with, as do other jurisdictions. There are a number of peculiarities to the ACT that put pressure on our elective surgery lists.

The question is: what can we do about it? We can continue to grow our bed capacity and replace the beds that the Liberals shut, when they shut 114 beds. We have opened them and put more in place. We can look at extra operating theatres. We have opened every theatre that the Liberals had shut, under their management, where you had theatres shut and sitting there. We have employed surgeons, we have employed nursing staff, we have improved the two intensive care units. We have got a new intensive care unit which will be built at Canberra Hospital. A new intensive care centre and high dependency unit has just been built at Calvary.

All of that will go to improving people’s access to elective surgery. All of that is targeted at improving that. But it takes time to get it right. Whilst we are working on the less urgent cases and moving them through, you cannot take your eye off the more urgent cases and the emergency work. So what we have been able to do is target our long waits at the same time as we have been able to improve access for emergency and category 1 patients. It is a balancing act to get it right. We would like to do more.

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