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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2014 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 25 November 2014) . . Page.. 3981 ..

MR HANSON: Minister, what steps have you taken to encourage Canberrans with private health insurance to use the private system rather than the public system?

MS GALLAGHER: Patients are asked where a level of service is offered, and if we look at orthopaedics, for example, there is no emergency orthopaedics coverage. So you can have all the private health cover you like but you are not going to get your operation in the private system because it is not offered. So where it is appropriate, where there is a service being offered, certainly people are asked. But to a large extent they do not take up that choice because they know they will get excellent care in the public system. And that is the reality. In terms of all the feedback and all the surveying that is done, people know that they will get well looked after in the public system, that the quality of care provided will be excellent, so why pay the gap fee?

There is room to do more in this area, but we cannot also force people to use their private health cover. We can ask them to use it, we can encourage them to use it; we can encourage them to use it in the public system as a revenue stream. We are certainly looking at ways to do that. We have the highest level of private health cover in the country and the lowest utilisation of it. That is partly linked to the level of service that is offered in the private system but it also reflects very positively on the public system—something no doubt we will not hear from those opposite.

Canberra Hospital—hydrotherapy pool

MR DOSZPOT: My question is to the Minister for Health, concerning the hydrotherapy pool at the Canberra Hospital. Minister, the opposition has received representations from a number of constituents who are concerned about the mooted closure of the Canberra Hospital hydrotherapy pool. The TCH pool is a vital facility for a number of Canberra organisations, including Arthritis ACT. Minister, is it proposed to close the Canberra Hospital hydrotherapy pool?

MS GALLAGHER: At some point in time it is, certainly because it is currently occupying an area of the hospital that will be part of the redevelopment of the hospital. However, I think the issue did arise—where I have tried to pick it back to—at a meeting about service offering at the new subacute hospital, which is where the new hydrotherapy pool will be built, in time. People and an organisation in particular, Arthritis ACT, I think, left that meeting and mailed out to their members that the pool was for imminent closure, which is not correct.

There will be a public hydrotherapy pool at all times, whether it be something we contract to the private system if the one at the subacute hospital is not open in time for the one at Canberra to close. There will be change. But there is no closure. I have written to the organisations. I have said there must have been a misunderstanding from this meeting.

When we refurbished the hydrotherapy pool not long ago, because it is an ageing piece of infrastructure at the hospital, we were able to make private arrangements for all of those people, and it was all managed very carefully and without problems. If that needs to happen again for the small window between the decommissioning of the present pool and the commissioning of the new one, we will look at that, but there will always be a public option for hydrotherapy services in Canberra.

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