Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (23 June) . . Page.. 815 ..
Hospitals - Excess Capacity
MR STANHOPE: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Health. Can the Minister confirm that Canberra's public hospitals have met many of their obligations under current purchaser-provider agreements and thus have excess capacity to undertake work for which they have not been contracted? What is the excess capacity at both Canberra and Calvary hospitals, and is the Government involved in any negotiations with the hospitals over the issue?
MR MOORE: Thank you, Mr Stanhope, for the question. I find the notion of excess capacity to be a reasonably strange notion, I must say. The excess capacity has to do with the amount of cross-border separations that we purchase. There are physical areas within the hospitals that we could use - for example, wards that have never been opened and wards that are closed in both hospitals and that we could use - but the critical issue is the services that we provide and whether we have extra funds to purchase more services from either hospital at any given time. In fact, in the budget which will come down later today you will be able to see very clearly what has happened over the last year in terms of the services that have been purchased and the outcomes. The critical issue, though, is still one of waiting times. The waiting times for the hospitals have improved significantly over the last year. Unfortunately, because of the VMO dispute, they will, of course, be set back somewhat and we will have to work hard to ensure that we get them back to as short as possible.
MR STANHOPE: I have a supplementary question. I am sorry if my question was not all that clear, Minister. I was seeking to determine whether you are having negotiations with the hospitals about whether or not they are in a position to provide more services than the Government had arranged to purchase. In that context, is there a capacity for the Government to provide more services if the money is available? Are the hospitals in a position to provide the services if you are in a position to provide the money? If there is that capacity, why have we not taken it up?
MR MOORE: Yes, in fact the hospitals do have capacity to provide more services. They can, for example, bring VMOs in for more sessions. In the past they could have brought them in for more fee-for-service operations. Indeed, some of that was done. Over last year, there were extra services purchased in that way. In general terms, the Canberra Hospital was designed as a 700-bed hospital facility. Calvary has capacity for 190 or 200 beds. We do not run anywhere near that number of beds because there are budgetary constraints. Give me any amount of money and we can provide whatever services people ask for. But I must say that that is in a context of a goal that I have set, which is to try to get more services operating out of the hospitals and into the community and to reduce the capacity, at any given time, of both hospitals, because what we want to do is seek to find a healthier society.