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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 22 April 2021) . . Page.. 1093 ..

I recognise that Mrs Jones’s motion raises important health issues. Labor will be supporting the motion today because—unlike Mrs Jones, who appears to have only just become aware that this is an issue—we already knew that there was more to do on endoscopy. Indeed, we had already committed to do more as part of our comprehensive health platform which we took to the last election. As has already been demonstrated in our first budget since the election, we do, and we will, deliver on our commitments. I look forward to updating the Assembly later this year on how this will be achieved as part of our broader work to continually improve and expand our already excellent health system.

MR DAVIS (Brindabella) (3.31): The ACT Greens will be supporting the motion from Mrs Jones today calling on the government to demonstrate their plan to reduce endoscopy wait times. The ACT Greens know that access to well-resourced, easy-to-navigate, quality secular health care is a fundamental human right and a pillar of our liberal democracy. In a society like ours, everyone who needs medical support should be able to access it when they need it, no matter what their income or their circumstances. Going into the last election the ACT Greens promised to reduce elective wait times. Transparency over the government’s plan to do so is of the utmost importance to us and to the Canberra community.

The reports last week in the Canberra Times about our endoscopy wait times were alarming, and mirror concerns raised with me by constituents about the long wait times for elective procedures and the impact waiting has on a patient’s physiological and psychological health.

It has been posed to me by a number of constituents in recent weeks that the term “elective surgery” fails to fully grasp and truly describe the profound impact of waiting for a procedure, often in pain and worry as your condition worsens. While this is the standard terminology, this motion serves to remind us that elective procedures are not a choice—they are an essential part of our healthcare system requiring strategic management to enable timely and affordable access to care.

There is a growing demand for endoscopies in our health system, partly as a result of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, which reduces illness and death from bowel cancer by helping to detect the early signs of this disease in people aged 50 to 74, using a free, simple test that can be done at home.

According to a 2017 study by the Cancer Council, screening for bowel cancer can reduce deaths from the disease by between 15 and 25 per cent. These tests sometimes lead to further investigation through endoscopy. At a population-wide level, this drives the demand on our health system.

The national screening program is an important part of the way we protect people from illness and death as a result of bowel cancer, but it relies upon our local public health system having the capacity to undertake those next steps.

It is clear that wait times for elective procedures are a significant issue facing Canberra Health Services and ACT Health. Across the country, public health systems

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