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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 3 Hansard (27 March) . . Page.. 705 ..

MRS CARNELL (continuing):

Mr Speaker, when this Government came to office just over a year ago, the waiting list stood at an all-time high of 4,569. In fact, it had more than doubled over the previous 31/2 years, to the point where the ACT enjoyed the dubious distinction of having the second-worst record of any State or Territory in waiting times for surgery. This Government set itself the challenge of trying to reduce the waiting list by 20 per cent, or 900 patients, over the period of our three-year term. It is a challenge we have taken very seriously. Already this year we have targeted $2m in funds for operations for people who have been waiting for unacceptably long periods of time. At the end of last month, Mr Speaker, this had resulted in surgery for an additional 216 patients at Calvary Hospital, and more than 600 additional cases are expected to be treated before the end of the financial year at both public hospitals in Canberra. Already this year we have developed a waiting list policy, or management strategy, if you like, which involves doctors, nurses, hospital staff and patients.

Mr Berry: How many have you reduced them by?

MRS CARNELL: I will get to that, Mr Berry. It is all right; just wait. You will be very pleased, I am sure. We have recruited additional operating theatre nurses and trainees to partly fill what has been a desperate shortage in our theatres, particularly at Woden Valley Hospital. The new professor of surgery at the Canberra Clinical School, Professor McClelland, has also begun extensive work on developing protocols and management plans at Woden Valley Hospital to ensure that our waiting list performance targets reflect national standards.

So, what is the upshot of this, Mr Speaker? Well, here we are, Mr Berry, for you: At the end of February the ACT's waiting list stood at 4,221. That is 348 fewer than when we came to office and it is also the lowest level since June 1994. We recognise that we still have a long way to go; but the reforms that we are putting in place are starting to have real benefits, and certainly those real benefits are very important to the 4,000-plus people waiting for elective surgery.

Mr Berry: It is a great reform - a bigger budget blow-out!

MRS CARNELL: Mr Berry cannot even say, "Well, good on you, Government. Good on you for reducing waiting lists by 348 over a 12 months period". The waiting list had doubled under the previous Government. I would like to take this opportunity, Mr Speaker, to congratulate the staff at both Woden and Calvary hospitals, particularly those in surgery, theatres and the booking offices, who have really made this difference. It is they who have produced this quite substantial reduction and a turnaround that simply has not happened since self-government, which I think is very exciting, even if Mr Berry does not.

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