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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 1 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 140 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

As Mr Smyth has just indicated, this is in addition to providing for a $2.7 million shortfall in funding the hospital, identified by the previous government prior to the election-despite the fact that it bleated long and loud that it deliberately had not budgeted for a shortfall in funding the hospital. With this $2.7 million injection it acknowledged that it in fact did provide for a shortfall.

A particularly pleasing element of the $6 million appropriation that we are now entertaining is that we will be able to fund and attract an additional 60 nurses to provide the necessary support to the existing resources. This additional nursing staff will cost $3.5 million in a full year. The increased nursing numbers will reduce the use of agency nurses and the hospital's need to rely on current staff to do double shifts and overtime to fill rosters. A feature of the previous government's administration was, of course, the introduction of so many double shifts, so much overtime and the need to engage agency nurses to do that work.

Nurses will also be able to be released for more annual and professional development leave. The result of having more permanently employed staff is that nurses will work their normal rosters and have the time off that they need to be supportive when they are at work. The crucial outcome is that nurses will be able to provide to patients care, with the energy and skills required to fulfil both their own and their patients' expectations of quality care.

We will also purchase additional throughput from the Canberra Hospital. It will provide a range of additional inpatient and outpatient services, such as more capacity for emergency admissions and new outpatient clinics. We propose that the new outpatient clinics will be for neurology and dermatology, an area of much unmet need. In a four-year period, these service improvements will total $1.1 million.

It is particularly disappointing that we have had to find funds from this package to meet the increased cost of Comcare premiums. The ongoing additional amount for the premium increase for Comcare is $1.4 million a year. This increase, only recently advised to the Canberra Hospital, cannot be absorbed by the hospital without reducing its capacity to treat patients. The hospital assures me that it will work to lower these costs in future years to improve health and safety strategies. As I say, it is particularly disappointing to me and to the government that we have been presented with an additional bill for $1.4 million a year for Comcare costs.

This package of initiatives totals $6 million in a full year: $3.5 million for nurses, $1.1 million for service improvements and $1.4 million for the Comcare premium.

Coming to the matter Mr Smyth is interested in: in the first two years the government will take the opportunity to use the additional $2.7 million-which was first identified by you in government and which we have committed to as well. We have now appropriated for $8.7 million. We will use that money to purchase much-needed equipment, particularly in relation to radiation treatment.

Mr Smyth: Yes, but then you reduce it. You are the first government to reduce hospital funding.

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