Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 08 Hansard (Wednesday, 18 August 2010) . . Page.. 3502 ..
Mr Hanson: I take a point of order on relevance. This is a statement the minister made when she was looking at a policy of winding back elective surgery so that she could free up beds because, obviously, of the increased usage at the Canberra Hospital. She certainly needs to come to the point of the question, which is: did you or did you not cancel any elective surgery as part of that policy to free up beds because of the increased demand?
MR SPEAKER: Treasurer, let us move on from the analysis of the Liberal Party’s performance.
MS GALLAGHER: Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is linked to the ability to absorb huge amounts of people coming to our emergency department, with high numbers of them being admitted to the hospital as medical patients. The fact that we have more beds available than ever before—on average, it is probably about 440 beds operating at the Canberra Hospital every day—is because of the extra beds that we have put into that hospital. If you did not have the beds, yes, we would be cancelling surgery to deal with the demand for things through medical admissions.
As a part of the winter plan, have we cancelled elective surgery like we did when we had the swine flu pandemic the year before? No, we have not. Bed numbers and occupancy rates have actually been travelling pretty well.
MR SPEAKER: Mr Hanson, a supplementary?
MR HANSON: Why is it that we have the longest waiting lists for elective surgery in Australia?
MS GALLAGHER: I am not sure if we do have the longest waiting lists for elective surgery in Australia. In relation to median waiting time, which is the length of time once somebody is removed from the list, which is quite different from the number of people on the list, there are a number of reasons why the ACT struggles. If you look at all of the small health systems—Tasmania, the Northern Territory and, I think, South Australia—you will see that all of them, for different reasons, at times struggle around median waiting times. Some of that is to do with capacity, some of that is to do with demand, and some of that is to do with 30 per cent of our lists coming from New South Wales. All of those impact on access to elective surgery.
Where we can control it is on outputs, and what we can deliver is increased surgery, and that is what we have been doing over the last six, seven, eight years. Now our elective surgery output is up to 10,000 procedures a year. The demand continues to grow, so we need to look for other alternatives to supplement our own ability. They include the private sector; they include looking at options with Queanbeyan hospital. We are doing all of those things.
MRS DUNNE: Supplementary question, Mr Speaker?
MR SPEAKER: Yes, Mrs Dunne.