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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 12 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 3967 ..

Elective Surgery Waiting List

MR HIRD: My question is to Mrs Carnell in her capacity as Minister for Health and Community Care. I refer to the Government's announcement two months ago that it had achieved its election promise already by reducing the waiting list for elective surgery by 20 per cent during its first three years of office. My question is: Has the Government been able to maintain this significant reduction in the waiting list, or has the Minister encountered the problems facing the Government in New South Wales, where waiting lists are now virtually back at their pre-election levels?

MR SPEAKER: The matter relating to New South Wales is not a matter for the Minister for Health, but she can certainly comment on the matter so far as the ACT is concerned.

MRS CARNELL: I am very happy to concentrate on the ACT, Mr Speaker. I am very happy to announce to the Assembly today that waiting lists are now down to 3,501. That is the lowest level since August 1993 and compares to a figure of 4,569 when we came to power last year. That means that waiting lists have been reduced by 1,068, or 23 per cent, since we came to office last March. Waiting lists have come down by another 65 this month, even when there has been some industrial action due to a Federal Government decision. Under those circumstances I think 65 is a pretty impressive achievement.

I am always interested that Mr Berry seems chronically unimpressed by the waiting list figures. I think it is appropriate to quote what Mr Berry said on 28 May 1991. I will table this page of Hansard for the interest of members. He said:

A good way to measure the adequacy of the hospital system, Mr Speaker, is by the waiting list. That is why this Government -

meaning Mr Humphries at the time -

does not want to hear about waiting lists any more, and that is why it wants to talk about other things. The waiting list is a good way to measure how your hospital system is performing.

I am very happy to answer that, because I think that is a pretty fair statement. The waiting list is a good method of determining how the hospital system is performing. Not only have we reduced waiting lists by 1,068 since we came to government, but as well, and this is something that I am even more proud of, at the end of October we had a situation where no-one in Canberra, not one patient who is on our category 1 waiting list - those are people who need urgent surgery within 30 days - had waited for more than 30 days. When we came to power last year, 50 per cent of all category 1 patients were waiting for longer than 30 days. That meant that they were waiting for longer than was clinically appropriate. That was an unacceptable situation.

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