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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 9 Hansard (19 November) . . Page.. 2724 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

winter rush of ailments. I think there are a lot of people within the Canberra community who have been significantly disadvantaged, and continue to be significantly disadvantaged, by the lack of ready access to, particularly, the public health system. We also have the question of the application of the additional Medicare funds to the waiting list, waiting time issue. This continues to be a significant difficulty within the health system and a continuing matter of significant concern.

Mr Rugendyke's motion is very timely. I think he has shown very good foresight. Once again I commend him for bringing it forward.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (5.06): I will speak on behalf of the Government to both the motion and the amendment. We welcome the motion by Mr Rugendyke and the amendment by Mr Stanhope. The issue of waiting lists and waiting times is particularly difficult at the moment. The hospitals are doing particularly well with emergencies, as they always have. People in Canberra in an emergency are dealt with. Those in the first category of waiting time, those with a clinical need, are dealt with within 30 days. Our hospitals are doing extremely well, better, as I understand it, than most places in the country. We do have problems with our category 2 and category 3 people on the waiting lists, those who ought to be dealt with within a period beyond that first category. It is something we need to deal with.

Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, I am very keen to see that we use as many ideas as we possibly can to deal with waiting lists. When we refer specifically to the money from the Medicare bonus funding, the easy and politically astute thing would be to spend it all on reducing the specific waiting lists and getting more doctors involved and dealing with the short-term problems over the next two years. This Government could then say, "See, we reduced the waiting lists", and then, of course, they would go hiking up again in the long term.

It seems to me that we have the opportunity, through the committee and through the Assembly, to say, "No, let's spend this money very carefully to make sure that we are dealing with the systemic problems. We have the money to be able to deal with systemic problems in this one-off chance. We can resolve the issues to deal with waiting lists over the long term, not just the next three years but over the next 10 to 15 years, and see whether we can get our processes right". I hope that is what the committee will be willing to look at. I am very keen to see what they come up with. I am very keen to assist the committee in the challenges that will face it in dealing with these issues. I thank members for their contribution.

MR RUGENDYKE (5.08): Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, I will speak very briefly to the amendment. I thank Mr Stanhope and I welcome his contribution to the motion. What I am aiming for with this motion is a bipartisan look at this problem. It has been a perennial problem for successive governments. I think that within the confines of the committee we can look at it without the normal frustration with which we look at these things. I see the amendment as strengthening the motion.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

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