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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 11 Hansard (Tuesday, 9 November 2021) . . Page.. 3139 ..

MS CLAY: How is the ACT government helping our Afghan community here in Canberra right through this really upsetting time?

MS CHEYNE: I thank Ms Clay for the question. As I mentioned—or started to mention at least—we have been working in partnership with our Afghan community leaders and key community organisations, including the Australian Red Cross, MHub, Companion House, MARSS, Legal Aid ACT and other refugee, asylum seeker and humanitarian coordination committee members, to reach out and provide those support services, in order to connect people who are arriving in Canberra—noting that many already do have those Canberra connections—with other community leaders or community support, increasing and assisting with access to migration assistance and counselling. As I mentioned, we have been sharing information on the International Committee of the Red Cross free and secure restoring of family links, to help people who may have lost contact with people.

We are a refugee welcome zone. We are very proud to be that. We are also working with Housing ACT and EPSDD to identify additional affordable housing options to support refugee arrivals seeking to settle in the ACT. I will take this opportunity to put on the record the ACT government’s distress at the situation in Afghanistan, and that we stand ready to support in every way that we can.

ACT Health—elective surgery

MS LAWDER: My question is to the Minister for Health. Minister, the AMA’s report card on public hospital performance released last week shows that since 2001, in the ACT, we have consistently had the worst waiting times for elective surgery in the nation. Why?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Ms Lawder for the question. In relation to elective surgery, Ms Lawder may be aware that we have been significantly increasing elective surgery numbers over the last few years. As I mentioned earlier, in the last financial year our system did more than 15,000 elective surgeries, which was a massive increase—about 15,300—over the previous highest number of 14,015 elective surgeries in 2018-19. Of course, 2019-20 was a rather disrupted year with the postponement of non-urgent elective surgeries. That year was rather curtailed but, before those elective surgeries were put on hold, we were on track to deliver 14,250 elective surgeries that year. The 15,300 that we delivered last year was a significant improvement, even on that effort, and it reflected our capacity to catch up.

I think that if Ms Lawder looked at the figures she would see that in some areas of elective surgery we do well; in others, we know that we have some challenges. We know that we have shortages of specialists in some areas. We know that we have growing demand in some areas. So those elective surgery numbers are quite different, depending on the different areas. One of the things we have specifically looked at with the additional investment in elective surgery, both in our catch-up last year and the investments that we are making in the budget this year, is some of those areas where we are seeing longer waiting lists and making sure that we are focusing our efforts in those particular areas.

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