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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3584 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

We sought to facilitate the enterprise bargaining agreement that is coming up by funding a 17.5 per cent pay rise for nurses right across the ACT to make sure they stay ahead in the salary competition across Australia. Why would we do that? For the same reason that we are advertising right across Australia, in Ireland, in New Zealand and across the world to try to get nurses. But at the same time as we are advertising there, those countries are advertising here to lure nurses out of Australia. Looking at the state of our dollar, if a nurse is to be paid in US dollars, Canadian dollars or UK pounds, they are going to be one heck of a lot better off. I am sure they do not miss that, and it makes it that much more difficult for us as well.

Nationally, our health system has to come up with better ways of training and bringing nurses back into the work force. We have made some attempt in the ACT, but you have to seek to solve these problems on a national basis. It is also time for us to consider different styles of work practice within the hospitals, where registered nurses with university degrees perhaps have more support from enrolled nurses-or from health care assistants, as are used in the United Kingdom, and in Western Australia. There we may be able to solve some of these problems. If we build into that a proper patient-nurse dependency system, which we can do with appropriate computer systems, we will have a reasonable chance of solving these issues.

Nursing clinicians, who understand what the acuity levels are and the particular needs of patients on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour basis, are the people who ought to be making these decisions. That is where our hospital management frameworks have moved; that is what we are seeking to do. It is the senior nurse on the ward who is saying, "No, we cannot take more patients." When that happens, we seek to move people from the Canberra Hospital-if that is where it has happened-to extra beds at the Calvary Hospital or the Queanbeyan Hospital, and there is a system for that to happen because it is the senior nurse on the ward who is making the decision about the level of acuity and what they can manage.

Recognising that there is a shortage of nurses, and, particularly through this winter period, many nurses have been prepared to take an extra bed, put in extra effort and work double shifts in order to make it work. They have put out more than we should expect from them. As an Assembly we ought express our gratitude for that, and as a community we ought to express our gratitude because these nurses have gone above and beyond what was reasonable to expect of them. Because of that we have maintained low waiting lists for people getting into hospital, not only for emergency but also for category 1. We have been able to reduce the waiting list for category 2 and category 3 because of the effort made by these people.

If this bill does come back onto the agenda at the next sitting, whoever is sitting here as health minister ought to reject it because, rather than doing what it seeks to do, it undermines the health of the community. It might help solve a problem of acuity in a particular hospital, but it would create many more problems than it solves. That is the trouble with simplistic solutions.


(11.11): I will be brief. I agree with some of what the minister said in connection with this exposure draft. I have to ask whether, if it were not for the fact that the day after tomorrow this Assembly is in recess leading up to an election, this exposure draft would be on the table at all. Mr Osborne has been notable for his absence when the

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