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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 25 September 2019) . . Page.. 3843 ..

included the introduction of strategies to improve discharge planning, removing barriers to discharge, increasing access to pathology rapid testing to enable early diagnosis of influenza, and commencement of additional recruitment to address seasonal demand. A targeted external communications strategy also commenced in June, to promote the utilisation of walk-in centres and to help Canberrans understand the difference between a cold and the flu.

The opening of the 16 winter beds at Canberra Hospital and the all-care discharge unit commenced on 11 July, and 12 additional beds were progressively opened at the University of Canberra Hospital from June 2019 to provide additional capacity into the system.

The commencement of both the additional beds at Canberra Hospital and the all-care discharge unit were, as I have said before, aligned to the completion of critical infrastructure works across the campus. The opening of new beds and services in a large and complex organisation like Canberra Hospital requires considerable planning. Work to develop the 2019 winter management plan commenced in early 2019. Opening new beds requires both staff and physical facilities. It is important to recognise that staff in hospitals work on rosters, which need to be planned in advance. Similarly, infrastructure works in a hospital need to be carefully planned and implemented.

Unfortunately, as I have said before, the flu season did not give us advance notice of its early arrival, which was the earliest for the last 10 years.

MR COE: Minister, when was the 2019 flu strategy signed off and ready for implementation, and who signed off on it?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I will take that question on notice. As I have already said, work commenced on the strategy in early 2019. It is really unrealistic to expect that a significant number of additional beds can simply be opened without forward planning. However, as I have said before, a range of strategies to respond to seasonal demand was implemented well prior to 11 July, and it is incorrect to assert that Canberra Health Services only started responding to increased demand on its services when these new beds were opened.

MS LAWDER: Minister, how many flu seasons will it be before you ensure that the Canberra Hospital system has the capacity and flexibility to handle a bad flu season, regardless of when it starts?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I absolutely reject the premise of Ms Lawder’s question because, in fact, Canberra Health Services and Calvary Public Hospital, Bruce, did manage the demands of the winter season. Of course, we have just last week announced the start of the expansion of Calvary’s emergency department, a $6.7 million infrastructure project that will increase treatment spaces at Calvary by 22 treatment spaces, increasing ED capacity at Calvary by 50 per cent but increasing ED capacity across the whole system by almost 20 per cent before next winter, that project being finalised in March 2020.

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