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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 12 Hansard (24 November) . . Page.. 3646 ..

MR WOOD (continuing):

All this is increasing the range of services being demanded by the community and also, of course, at the same time, increasing costs. These are severe demands for systems to meet. When we started out, I do not think we had any expectation that we could provide a wonderful range of solutions for this Government to act upon. We have certainly, in this time, learnt of the difficulties - learnt in more detail, perhaps, than we had understood before, although the debate on the health system and waiting lists has been a continuing part of the ACT over the 10 years of self-government.

There are many measures that can be taken. The situation is not altogether insoluble, but attention to it does require assistance and diligence. We recognise the Government, as with former governments, is attending to the problems that exist. The data we report on is relevant as at last August. This is a couple of months on, so I must make that point. I note, tonight, that we are receiving some more patient activity data. The Minister will be tabling that. The information changes perhaps by the month, so I make that proviso.

The committee examined a lot of data and in one respect we were concerned about the accuracy of the Medilink data. The Minister in a letter to us did acknowledge that it had its failings. It had its problems and accuracy could have been a problem with it. He pointed out that there are new systems coming into place and we should hope that those new systems provide more accurate data. In its submission to the committee, the Government acknowledged the difficulty with waiting lists and waiting times. The Government said, and I quote:

The current level of waiting times for elective surgery is unacceptable.

We would all, I hope, want to work towards very, very short waiting times. The committee acknowledges the Government's efforts to expedite the attention due to patients. But we note that there have been no major improvements in the number of long-wait patients in categories 2 and 3. A particular concern is a continuing increase in the number of long-wait patients in category 3. We will look with interest at the figures that the Minister produces tonight and the figures that he sends out. An innovation of this Minister is the figures that he sends out on the specialists' waiting lists and time, and we look with interest as they continue to come.

The committee welcomes the continuing refinement in the recording of waiting times, and sees this as a valuable step in identifying the areas of difficulty. We commend those areas where the Government has improved and reduced the number of long-wait patients. Nevertheless, the committee came to the view that a significant number of public patients are being failed by the public health care system, in that many patients are waiting longer than the clinically appropriate timeframes for attention. As I said before, we note the steps that have been taken in this respect.

We have made a number of recommendations. We note the direction the Government is moving in relation to pooling and we would encourage that. Noting the difficulties, I think that the specialists raised quite a number of significant points there that do need to be taken into account. But we believe that the concept of pooling is one that ought to be further explored.

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