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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (20 August) . . Page.. 2433 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

There are real fluctuations in waiting lists and waiting times. As I say, there were, I am advised, 4,054 people at the end of July 2002. I do not have the numbers here, but there has been an increase over the last 12 months and there was a decrease for July 2002 as opposed to July 2000.

There is a real issue in relation to waiting lists; there always has been and always will be. I guess that at one level you can always say, as I said in the comment that the Leader of the Opposition quoted, that the waiting lists were unacceptable. They are unacceptable now, particularly for the people on the waiting lists; there is no doubt about that. It is a matter of enormous frustration to anybody ever to have to wait an inordinate time, particularly when they are dealing with an issue that affects their quality of life, as do some of the issues for which some people wait considerable periods.

I might just say in terms of waiting times, which is always an interesting measure that we do need to take account of, that members would be interested to know that in June 2002 the average waiting time for category one was 14 days, the average waiting time for category two was 113 days and the average waiting time for category three was 192 days.

Just to put the debate around waiting times in some context, we do need to acknowledge-Mr Humphries would recall that he went to this issue in some of his questioning during the estimates process-that waiting times are but one measure of the performance of a health system and waiting times are amongst a number of priority issues that health departments, health systems and hospitals need to deal with. I do not know where one would prioritise waiting lists or elective surgery. The timely availability of elective surgery is but one of the priority issues that hospitals need to deal with. It is but one of the issues that do demand resourcing, along with a whole range of other priorities across the health system.

Among the other priorities we have sought to deal with are issues relating to disability services. I think it has been generally accepted by all of us as a consequence of the major work which Justice Gallop did, work that has been built on by the Disability Reform Group, that we as a community have underfunded disability services. It is as a consequence of that that in the budget which will be debated next week there is an additional $2.5 million for disability services.

Another priority area that we have focused on-I saw confirmation of our actions on the front page of the Canberra Times today-is the view that we had that mental health services in the ACT had been drastically underfunded by previous governments. Members of the Liberal Party would be aware of the report on the front page of today's Canberra Times which revealed that on a per capita basis, on national averages, the ACT-

Mr Humphries: What does that have to do with waiting lists?


: It is quite relevant. It revealed that the Liberal Party underfunded mental health services in the ACT by 17.5 per cent compared with other jurisdictions. We are the bottom jurisdiction. We are the lowest funding jurisdiction in Australia for mental health services. We have addressed that. We have addressed it through the provision of $1.2 million in additional funds for mental health services in our first

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