Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 17 August 2010) . . Page.. 3385 ..
MS GALLAGHER: It is rare that people see an increase in birth numbers as a problem. Mrs Dunne, the way you manage a hospital is that—
Mr Stanhope: You had two babies there.
MS GALLAGHER: That is right; I contributed to the problem. Maybe it is my fault. With respect to the way you run a hospital, just because you see a slight increase in demand—and it was not a sustained increase; there was jumping around in the number of births going on—it does not mean that you immediately recruit more staff to that position. The health budget would be unsustainable—
Mr Hanson: It has been five years, hasn’t it?
MS GALLAGHER: No, you did not listen to my answer to the question—unsustainable, if that is the way you responded. You do not necessarily, just because there is an increase in activity, think, “We have to do more.” The first budget request that I got was in October last year, and this budget delivers $8.6 million to address that increase in demand. As I said, the numbers in 2004-05 were actually below the numbers the year before. By 2006-07, they were on par with those numbers. So there has not been five years of sustained growth. It moves around. But I accept that in the last 2½ years it appears that, based on population growth, the level of births to be experienced at the Canberra Hospital is probably going to be maintained at about 2,600 births a year. That is why we are building the women’s and children’s hospital. That is why we are introducing new models of care. And that is why we have increased resources going to this area.
MR SMYTH: A supplementary, Mr Speaker?
MR SPEAKER: Yes, Mr Smyth.
MR SMYTH: Minister, what impact are these unsustainable workloads having on patients and staff at the hospital and what assessment have you or your department made about the effects of these unsustainable workloads on your OH&S obligations?
MS GALLAGHER: ACT Health is working closely with the maternity unit. I was out there recently. Their biggest concern that they raised with me was to ask Calvary to stop capping the public births. We are dealing with that under another process. The sense I got from the workforce was that, until that change, the workloads were being managed but, certainly, with the workload at the moment, people are feeling stretched.
I have asked that immediate action occur to get any midwife we can into TCH to support and provide assistance to existing midwives. It is hard. There are not a lot of midwives, sitting around twiddling their fingers, to recruit to any obstetric service in the ACT. But management are working very closely with the unit to try to resolve the workload issues and, indeed, with Calvary as well.
MR SPEAKER: A supplementary, Mr Smyth?