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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 22 April 2021) . . Page.. 1094 ..


are preparing for and responding to the increasing demand on them to service an ageing population and battling the backlog of elective procedures that were delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While this motion speaks directly to endoscopy wait times, on which there are particular pressures, we know there is much broader interest in the community in elective procedure wait times and the government’s plan to reduce them.

During estimates and annual reports, the health and community wellbeing committee heard from the minister and the directorate about their progress on the plan to work through the category 2 and category 3 procedures that had been delayed due to federal government policy in the first half of 2020. The ACT government has invested $30 million in the public health system for prevention, preparedness and recovery of services impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown, including elective surgery. This included undertaking over 650 additional endoscopy procedures that have been completed through public and private facilities. In our report tabled in this sitting, we have recommended that the ACT government continue to address and rectify the elective surgery waitlist that has occurred as a result of the suspension of surgery due to the pandemic.

More broadly, our elective procedure capacity is growing. The ACT has grown elective surgeries at double the national average for the five years up to 2018-19. In 2020-21 the ACT is aiming to deliver at least 16,000 elective surgeries, having delivered 14,015 in 2018-19. But it is clear that something more needs to be done. Canberra needs to continue to plan for and attract medical talent, given the lucrative offers in the private sector and career opportunities offered interstate. The fact that our public facilities need upgrading, and the demand for procedures evidences the need for new public facilities.

Part of the plan for increasing the ACT’s health system offering is to build an elective surgery centre at the University of Canberra Hospital precinct. According to the government, this centre will deliver an additional 5,000 endoscopy procedures each year. In the meantime the government is working in partnership with private facilities to enable them to work through patients who remain on the waiting lists.

The issue of elective surgery waiting lists is complex and not easily solved, involving a multitude of different pressure points. But it is an issue that has a profound impact on our health system, and one that needs strategic long-term planning as well as a short- to medium-term response to deal with the current overwhelming pressures on our system.

Again I thank Mrs Jones for her motion, and I look forward to hearing the government’s response in September.

MRS JONES (Murrumbidgee) (3.36), in reply: I thank both parties for their input to the debate and the Minister for Health for taking this matter seriously. In the period since announcing this motion, one of the people I was contacted by was a friend whose daughter has suspected Crohn’s disease. She has been told to start eating foods


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