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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 10 Hansard (4 September) . . Page.. 3045 ..

Hospital Beds

MR KAINE: I have a question for Mrs Carnell as Chief Minister and Minister for Health and Community Care. Chief Minister, I draw your attention to yet another media release issued by Mr Berry back in July in which he described the reduction in obstetrics beds at Canberra Hospital as a "cruel implementation of Chief Minister Carnell's Thatcherite privatisation ideology". Mrs Carnell, can you advise the Assembly whether there is any truth to Mr Berry's claim that the reduction in beds has caused delays in the deliveries of babies, or is this just another one of Mr Berry's unsubstantiated statements?

MRS CARNELL: I thank you for the question, Mr Kaine. Mr Kaine and Mr Speaker, in 41/2 years in this Assembly I have read some pretty amazing media releases, but the release I have here in my hand today really does have to take the cake. There is no doubt about that. I will table it, for the interest of members of the Assembly, because I am sure everybody would like to read this media release. It really has to take the cake. You really have to hand it to Mr Berry. He is the only politician I know who, if I commented that we had had a lot of rain recently and there was a heavy wind out there, would just stand out there in the middle of a downpour and say it was a sunny day. I am absolutely confident that that is the case.

Mr Berry tried to claim recently that 25 obstetrics beds had been closed at Canberra Hospital, and he was wrong. In fact, one of the three 20-bed wards has closed and the other two were increased to 25 beds, making a total of 50 obstetrics beds - 10 fewer than the 60 that were currently open. Why was that, Mr Speaker, and Mr Berry? I might just refresh Mr Berry's memory here. I want to quote from a statement from the Labor Health Minister, Terry Connolly, in this Assembly on 16 June 1994. This statement was made in the Assembly.

Mr De Domenico: Who?

MRS CARNELL: He was the Labor Health Minister.

Mr De Domenico: They might want to bring him back as leader.

MRS CARNELL: Yes, they probably would not do badly either. He said this:

We have approved in recent months a total of some 55 additional beds in the private sector, which will take significant pressure off the public sector.

Those 55 beds, Mr Speaker, represent a 20 per cent increase in the number of private beds in Canberra, and who opened them, Mr Speaker? Labor. Labor definitely opened them. Why did they open them? To take pressure off the public sector, Mr Speaker. Let me quote a little bit more from the statement of the Labor Health Minister of that time. He said, again in June 1994:

That will significantly free up demands there, and it is likely that some of those beds that are now maternity will be used for other purposes ...

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