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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 6 Hansard (21 May) . . Page.. 1534 ..

MRS CARNELL (continuing):

handle the sorts of problems that may exist today at Woden was to have better bed management. That means a better discharge policy and all of these sorts of things that we are currently putting in place. The Government is not sitting on its hands. It is not closing beds as Mr Berry did - some 200 beds, I seem to remember. It is not allowing waiting lists to more than double. We are addressing the very real problems that exist in our health system.

Nursing Costs

MS FOLLETT: I have a question for Mrs Carnell in her capacity as Minister for Health. Minister, you have constantly complained that the cost of nursing in the ACT is some 30 per cent above the national benchmark. Reports that I have heard today point to an agreement in the long-running dispute with the Australian Nursing Federation. If that is so, if there is an agreement, where will the ACT then stand against the same benchmark in the light of this new agreement with the ANF?

MRS CARNELL: Thank you very much. I could not have written a better dorothy dixer myself. Mind you, Mr Wood, I actually do not write the dorothy dixers. We do lots of things; that is not one of them. Mr Speaker, the question from Ms Follett is a very important one. Yes, we have reached agreement with the ANF on a number of issues, and with the HSUA as well. There are two issues here. One of the them is the triple-eight nursing roster issue, which was separate from EBA issues, and we have also reached agreement with regard to the enterprise bargaining agreement.

First, I will correct Ms Follett on one comment. The 30 per cent per patient above national averages relates to the cost of treating a patient in our health system. In other words, it costs 30 per cent more to treat the same patient at the same level with the same quality in the ACT system than it would in a similar hospital elsewhere. We certainly have not indicated that it costs 30 per cent more for nursing care alone, although nursing care in the ACT has been and is one of the major expenditure items.

The triple-eight nursing roster issue has been an ongoing problem. In fact, I think Mr Berry had a level of industrial disputes on the same issue. I think on two occasions the previous Government ended up toe to toe with the ANF on the issue. We now have an agreement on the triple-eight nursing rosters. If we are willing to leave the current roster system in place, the ANF are willing to make significant changes to the way our nursing rosters operate and also significant changes to the patient-to-nurse ratio within our system. Currently, in some circumstances we have more nurses per patient than would be the benchmark elsewhere in Australia.

We also have an agreement with the nurses to use our rosters much more efficiently. Mr Speaker, some of those here might be interested to know that we actually close our operating theatres at lunchtime. That means that everything comes to a halt for a couple of hours every day. The cost of that, both from a patient perspective - it is interesting that again Ms McRae seems to think that that is particularly funny - - -

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