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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (30 August) . . Page.. 3768 ..

MR HARGREAVES: Thank you very much.

Mr Humphries: We could be here all day.

MR SPEAKER: Yes, we could.

MR HARGREAVES: You have kept us here all day. My supplementary question is this: given that this is an example of how somebody will be disadvantaged, and there is no suggestion that people will not suffer a similar disadvantage in the future, how are you going to level out the playing field so that young people are not disadvantaged through mild physical disability, geography or the choice of school?

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, as we have said, everyone who is entitled to the free travel will get that free travel. It is interesting that Mr Hargreaves states in his question that the young student in question now gets free travel to school, something that she and others around her may not have had before. As somebody who was on a benefit before, if she had free travel rights, we will maintain those travel rights now.

Hospital services

MR HIRD: I wonder what happened to Roberta McRae and who turfed her out. My question is to Mr Moore, Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services. Minister, can you inform the house of what steps the government has taken to ease the pressure on hospital emergency staff and improve the services for patients? Can you also inform the house of what measures the government has taken to assist older people who need post-hospital care? This is my last question to you, Minister. Has the $344 million got anything to do with it?

MR MOORE: Thank you, Mr Hird, for the question. I will take the last part of the question first, if I can. The $344 million does have something to do with it. If we had been operating with a $344 million operating loss, it would have been extraordinarily difficult for us to provide the hospital with the extra $20 million it was given from the budget previous to the last budget.

Yesterday I mentioned the low acuity clinic, sometimes referred to as the GP clinic, at the Canberra Hospital. I can add to that that negotiations have been going on with the Division of GPs to see whether they will develop a full GP clinic and whether we can do that in a coordinated way, perhaps with the department purchasing some extra services from the GPs to make sure we have operating on the grounds of the Canberra Hospital, which include the grounds surrounding the National Capital Private Hospital, a full GP clinic. I think that will provide some help-in the way the Florey clinic, which was a 24-hour GP service, used to operate. The negotiations are well under way in regard to something along those lines.

One of the most important things to ease pressure on hospital emergency staff is to break the bed block which is creating a significant part of the problem both here and right across Australia. Some people may have seen the New South Wales minister commenting on these issues on television either last night or the night before.

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