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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (9 August) . . Page.. 2680 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

As it happened, when I did a phone around of the small hospitals I also included speaking to Duntroon. The commandant has promised to try to provide a small number of beds, if asked, but consistent with their normal health care activities and consistent with the way that military services operate in the community. That is what was behind the ludicrous reference to military support and the silly, sensationalist headline that we are beginning to become used to with the Canberra Times.

I should point out that throughout the last several weeks the Canberra Hospital has not needed to rely on that network, other than to use normal coordination protocols with our second largest hospital, Calvary. As with every hospital in the nation-I can tell you that the health ministers discussed it at length last week at the health ministers council-the winter has been a difficult period. The public do need to be aware that winter illness and, for Canberra, ski field accidents cause peak demand and a peak workload for our staff and for our hospital resources.

Be in no doubt that this is a difficult period for every hospital. Three weeks ago, during school holidays, shift managers found it impossible to get staff on to fill the roster, causing delays and stress. With the end of the school holidays and the return of many staff to availability, the situation has eased a little; but there are currently 39 fully funded nursing positions at the hospital advertised and waiting to be filled, so it is not an issue of funding.

The major achievement of the government has been to get the ACT finances back into the black, allowing us to commit dramatic new resources to the hospital budget in recent years. In the 2001 budget, the increase was nearly $5 million, or about 2.9 per cent. This year, with the budget stabilised, we were able to provide an astonishing increase of $20.8 million-over 10 per cent. I know that sometimes Mr Quinlan questions our figures, but I am sure that he will agree that the figure is $25.8 million over two years. That is an effort with hospital funding of which I and other members of the government are justifiably proud.

The government has also moved to address the national problem that there are simply not enough nurses in the work force to meet all the demands of the Australian hospital system. Last year we introduced new training programs and incentives. We also put forward a major package of wage increases and moved to allow nurses to work flexible hours if they wished, allowing a wider range of trained nurses to re-enter the work force. That issue also was a matter of major concern for all health ministers across the nation. We discussed the issue, firstly in a private meeting and later in full council, for about two hours.

The last reforms that we offered to our nurses were successful at Calvary Hospital, where staff endorsed them with an 83 per cent yes vote. But, as everyone knows, the ANF blocked these improvements at the Canberra Hospital, denying staff a vote and campaigning against the wage rise and more flexible hours. The union has stridently opposed roster flexibility. We can assume that Mr Berry's ALP will do likewise. Of course, Mr Berry is Labor's industrial relations and health mogul and his antiquated views will, no doubt, control the Labor Party's policy, as it has in so many ways and will continue to do so.

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