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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 11 Hansard (Tuesday, 9 November 2021) . . Page.. 3131 ..

In the context of unprecedented hospital demand and COVID-19, we cannot have people in hospital beds who do not have a medical reason for being there and, through no fault of their own, have nowhere else to go. A hospital is not an appropriate place to live, if you do not need to be there. Too many older Canberrans and Australians with disability spend time in public hospitals when they are ready to be discharged, because the commonwealth is not adequately funding aged-care services, and the NDIS is not supporting these people to get into appropriate accommodation and care. COVID-19 has shown that major commonwealth levers can be pulled quickly when there is urgency. Frankly, the Liberal-National government is leaving vulnerable Australians behind in this circumstance.

Of course—and I have already talked about this—there is also increasing pressure on primary care, and health workers have been calling on the commonwealth to fund better primary care services for years. The ACT has the lowest number of GPs per 100,000 population, at just over 92 full-time equivalents, while the Australian average is 117 full-time equivalent GPs per 100,000. We also have the lowest rates of bulk-billing, and this is putting more pressure on our emergency departments and our acute settings. We call on the commonwealth to do better.

Hospitals—emergency department

MR PARTON: My question is to the Minister for Health. Minister, according to the AMA’s public hospital report card released last week, since 2002—the year after the Liberals lost government in the ACT—there has been a steady decline in the percentage of category 3, urgent, emergency patients seen within the recommended time. In 2002-03, we saw 74 per cent on time. We now see just 29 per cent on time. Minister, why has the Labor-Greens government allowed this to go backwards for 20 years?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I think that if Mr Parton actually looked at the figures himself he would see that those numbers have gone up and down over that period of time. Actually, they have fluctuated quite a lot over that period. Madam Speaker, I have already talked about the fact that I am frustrated that these numbers are not moving. That is why we have made this really significant investment not just in more doctors and nurses and the expansion of our emergency department but in changing the model of support, the establishment of the acute medical unit, to ensure that we can get flow through the emergency department so that people can be admitted without that long conversation about which is the right ward and which is the right specialist for that person to be admitted to.

We know that more and more people attending our emergency departments have complex chronic conditions, so there can be a conversation about which is the primary presenting condition and where they should be admitted to. The acute medical unit will enable those people to be admitted to the hospital and to be supported initially through a multidisciplinary team to free up that bed in emergency and get more people into emergency treatment.

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