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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (1 September) . . Page.. 1711 ..

Mr Moore: I am worried about what is coming.

MR STANHOPE: No, not at all, Mr Moore. I was quite genuinely pleased with the fact that your officials were encouraged to give information, whereas with other departments the general motivation seemed to be to deny as much information as possible.

There are a number of significant issues in relation to the health portfolio, particularly the delivery of public health to the people of Canberra. The Estimates Committee did seek to flesh out some advice to get a greater understanding of some of these issues. There are a number of recommendations in the Estimates Committee report going to items within the health budget. Some of those recommendations have been accepted, but a number of them have been rejected. There is, of course, an ongoing issue of concern in the ACT. Health, of course, is our biggest single budget item.

Mr Moore: No, education is, I think.

MR STANHOPE: Health is second biggest after education. It is a very significant item. Our health is of major concern to each of us as individuals, as family people and as members of the community. A number of factors impact on the difficulty we have as a community to rein in the costs of providing health services that meets the needs of all of the people of Canberra. Some are issues that from time to time generate a lot of public interest. The VMO dispute is one. During the Estimates Committee process we sought to better understand why it is that we have a cyclical battle with the VMOs. I understand to some extent some of the steps which the Minister has taken to restructure the VMO contract arrangements. I guess to some extent I am a little perplexed by the Government's response to the recommendation within the Estimates Committee report in relation to a process of reporting to the Assembly on VMO contractual arrangements and their cost. If the Minister proposes to speak in this debate, perhaps he can give us some explanation of why it was that the Government did not accept that particular recommendation. Some of the problems we have with VMOs perhaps arise from the difficulty of understanding the arrangements we have with VMOs. Perhaps the new arrangements the Minister has put in place will overcome that.

We continue to battle with waiting lists or waiting time. Some significant allowance is made within the budget to continue to address this issue. I am sure that there is a significant and serious level of disquiet within the community about the capacity of the public health system to deliver a timely service and that a large number of people consider that they have a condition worthy of much more urgent attention than they receive.

Our public health system does not deliver a timely service, and the quality of life of a range of people is seriously affected by their inability to readily access a service. As I am sure the Minister does and as I am sure all members do, I regularly have people presenting to me heart-rending stories of what they regard as the lack of capacity of the public health system to meet their particular health care needs. I accept that this is a difficult issue. A never-ending issue for governments is the public health service we in the Territory can afford to deliver to all of our people.

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