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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 02 Hansard (Tuesday, 9 February 2021) . . Page.. 309 ..

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Mrs Jones for the supplementary. Some of the things that we had started in February last year did get disrupted by COVID. I do not want to use that as an excuse, because I know that, as Mrs Jones has said, this has been an issue in the ACT system for some time. But we did have quite a clear set of priorities in place in February last year, which, obviously, it was going to be difficult to implement in the COVID environment, although we saw improved outcomes with fewer presentations at our emergency departments in the first half of last year.

The real focus that the leadership of Canberra Health Services and Calvary have put on this issue, and the message that they are sending to our hospitals, is that this is a whole-of-hospital responsibility: that everybody has a role to play in ensuring that patient flow is working appropriately, that patients can be admitted when they need to be admitted, and also that there are things we can do within the emergency department to improve this outcome. This is a continuous focus. It is a challenge. It is about delivering change in a busy 24/7 environment—one of the busiest emergency departments in the country at Canberra Hospital and a very busy emergency department also at Calvary. So it absolutely is a challenge, but we are very focused on meeting this challenge.

MS LEE: Minister, if you are confident in being able to fix the emergency department wait times within the next nine months, why have you not done it sooner?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the supplementary question. As I mentioned in one of my earlier answers, there were quite a number of strategies in place from February last year that could not be implemented for various reasons, including the disruption around COVID. But what has been implemented and what is now working well across the hospital is that whole-of-hospital approach, improving the capacity to discharge patients in a timely fashion—things like the all-care discharge lounge. People can be discharged into the discharge lounge even if they need some ongoing support because they are going to be returned to a residential aged-care facility or a home-based environment where they require some ongoing support.

There is still more work to do in terms of collaboration with Hospital in the Home. There are a range of strategies that we need to put in place. But, as I have said, one of the key challenges is that we are trying to deliver change in a busy 24/7 environment where people have a lot of things being thrown at them all day every day. We cannot take everybody off site and have a bit of a yak about it, have a bit of a brainstorm and then come back and practise for two days what our new arrangements are going to look like. We actually need to deliver change in a 24/7 environment. That is our key challenge, but we are very focused on achieving that.

Schools—hazardous materials

MR HANSON: My question is to the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs. Minister, more than 69 schools are affected by lead paint or asbestos. Some $15 million has been allocated to address this issue and an Assembly inquiry has recently been established. During the last sitting’s question time you were asked about

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