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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 25 September 2019) . . Page.. 3848 ..

by the fact that our hospital system not only treats all ACT residents but treats the sickest residents from the surrounding region of New South Wales.

Bernadette McDonald, who did a couple of extensive interviews with media last week to mark her almost one year in the job, was very clear with media that the fact that the hospitals managed to sustain their performance over the fourth quarter of 2018-19, given the pressures of the winter season—which was particularly significant and which saw particularly significant increases in demand—was a reflection that already some of the timely care strategies that they have put in place are working.

Madam Speaker, I want to again thank and congratulate all of the staff in our hospitals, particularly those who work in the EDs, for the incredible job they do supporting patients.

MS LAWDER: Minister, why are you so reluctant to answer these questions when you too have access to the incoming minister’s brief?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: With most of these questions, I have used up most of my time. I do not think I am reluctant to answer them at all.

Health—adult mental health unit

MR WALL: My question is to the Minister for Mental Health. As at 31 May 339 patients had waited for a day or more to be admitted to the adult mental health unit in 2018-19. This was a 139 per cent increase over the number of patients waiting for more than 24 hours for admission compared to 2017-18. Why did at least 339 patients have to wait for a day or longer for admission to the adult mental health unit?

MR RATTENBURY: The first thing to point out is that these patients are not without care; they are being seen to in the hospital. They may be accommodated in the short-stay unit in the emergency department; that is the most likely scenario. We have seen a significant increase in demand for mental health support at the hospital. I do not have the figures to hand; I am happy to provide them on notice. A lot more people have been presenting at the emergency department in particular in a state of mental health crisis. I am having extensive discussions with Canberra Health Services and the Health Directorate about this and we are looking at a range of initiatives.

Members may recall that in this year’s budget we announced the PACER initiative which is designed to provide people with mental health care without them needing to present to the emergency department. This is one way to take the pressure off the system. Other matters are being looked at, which I am not in a position to announce in question time but which we are working on.

I am also pleased to report to members that a number of times recently we have been substantially below capacity in the adult mental health unit. Some of the measures that have been put in place are having some impact, and I suspect that that is also a reflection of the ebb and flow of people’s needs in the community.

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