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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 8 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2107 ..

MR BERRY (4.42): When it comes to the general principle, one would be hard pressed to argue that a person is not better off in their own home than being in hospital. The problem is: At what point do they go? A look at the background here in the ACT and at the timeliness or otherwise of the introduction of this policy, I think, would raise a few questions. Firstly, we have a health system that is $14.2m behind, arguably, operating on fewer patients.

Mrs Carnell: No, not arguably; 1,000 more.

MR BERRY: Arguably, operating on fewer patients. We have hounded Mrs Carnell's bureaucrats for proof of her claims, which is yet to come.

Mrs Carnell: Since when were you able to hound bureaucrats, Mr Berry?

MR BERRY: We have spoken to people in relation to this and we have not received the proof. The management of the hospital system and the move to push patients out early would raise some questions out there in the community, and rightly so. If I had Mrs Carnell managing my health system, I would be worried too. So, against that background, we have some concerns.

This paper seems to target older people. That, to me, is a worry. I am not, at this point, satisfied that the hospital in the home program will be received that well out there in the community. In the early stages of these programs, I suspect that much care will be taken with the type of patient who is sent home early. I wonder, though, whether that same care will continue in due course, as the pressure goes on to save the dollars to which Mrs Carnell referred in her ministerial statement. She placed much emphasis upon $3 being saved for every $2 that the Commonwealth allocated. She said that it was very important. It seemed to me that the whole speech had as its basis the need to save money.

Mrs Carnell: You started off by saying that we were spending too much on health.

MR BERRY: Out of control expenditure. Mr Speaker, when you see those savings interests of the Government being expressed in such terms, I suppose you would not be surprised, given the Government's poor performance in managing its budget thus far. I see that Mrs Carnell uses evaluations in Victoria as a plus for her policy. I am not sure that the Victorians are that happy about it. The main aim of the claim that followed on from that was the reduction of the time spent by patients in the hospital.

I now go to the issue of what might have prevented the Government's enthusiasm for this policy; and that is an important election promise that Mrs Carnell made before the last election. Who will forget her continual promise - her repeated promise - of 50 extra beds? She said, "We will provide 50 extra beds and we will get $30m worth of savings out of the hospital system". She came in here and talked about how every $1m she spent on things like the Booz Allen consultancy would save $8m, on my recollection - and we have been sliding backwards ever since.

Mr Humphries: Yes, sure.

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