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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 07 Hansard (Tuesday, 30 July 2019) . . Page.. 2399 ..

ACT Health—flu strategy

MR HANSON: My question is to the Minister for Health: in your answer to estimates question on notice E19-285 about the bad flu season you said that nearly 1,000 people had presented to the Canberra Hospital with the flu between 11 May and 20 June this year. Patients have been kept in corridors in the emergency departments at both the Canberra Hospital and Calvary hospital, however ACT Health’s winter bed strategy did not start until 11 July. Why was the winter bed strategy not planned to start until 11 July, a month and a half into winter and fully two months after the first flu case presented to the ED?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Mr Hanson for his question. The influenza season is ongoing in the ACT with the number of cases increasing since early May, but it is important to point out that this was the earliest start to an influenza season in 10 years. Despite the early start to the season the current level of activity, while high, is not unusual when compared to previous seasons.

Current influenza activity in the community remains high, however, numbers have started to decrease since mid-July. It is too early to predict if notification numbers will continue to decline in the coming weeks and, of course, we have now implemented the winter bed strategy.

I can update the Assembly in relation to numbers: between 1 January and 21 July 2019 there have been 2083 notifications of influenza reported to the Health Directorate. In comparison there were 182 notifications in the same period in 2018. This probably goes some way to explaining why the winter bed strategy was scheduled to start in July, because this was an unusually early start to the influenza season.

MR HANSON: Minister, what infection control measures were put in place to limit the risk of the flu virus spreading when patients were being kept in corridors? It is pretty outrageous, to be honest.

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Mr Hanson for the supplementary and ignore his commentary around it.

Mr Hanson interjecting

Mr Wall interjecting

MADAM SPEAKER: Mr Hanson and Mr Wall! You asked a question; allow it to be answered.

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: There are, of course, infection control procedures in place at all times in the hospital. This is a very significant issue in any hospital. The safety of patients and protection from infection are important at all times in every season. I will take on notice Mr Hanson’s question in relation to whether there were any specific measures put in place.

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