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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2679 ..

Mental health

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, my question is for the Minister for Health. Minister, in your frequent avoidance of questions regarding waiting lists, you have told us many times of your criticisms of health funding under the previous government. I note that you appear to be passionate on the subject, and you assure us that extra money that you provided earlier this year is being spent in mental health.

However, on 16 July this year, the Canberra Times announced that the director of medical services at Calvary Hospital would be reducing public psychiatric services by 8 per cent as part of a cost-cutting program that also includes closing elective surgery theatres for three months of this year.

Minister, can you please explain to the members of this place how it can be possible, with all the new money you say you have put into mental health, that the people of the ACT are receiving an 8 per cent reduction in psychiatric services?

MR STANHOPE: I think it is a bit of a long bow to draw to suggest that the reduction of services for Canberra Hospital extrapolates into an 8 per cent reduction in the mental health services for the people of the ACT. The point that I have been making is that, on the evidence reported in the Canberra Times earlier this week on recent studies that have been undertaken, the ACT, for that reporting period, had funded mental health services at a level that was 17.5 per cent less than the next worst jurisdiction in Australia.

In the budget we are debating next week, there is provision for an additional or $1.3 million for mental health services. That is the point that I have been making, Mr Smyth. I have been making the point that, with the additional funds provided in next week's budget, there will be an additional $4 million, or thereabouts, for mental health in this next term.

MR SMYTH: Minister, is it incompetent to spend extra money and receive less service?

MR STANHOPE: I am sure it is, Mr Smyth, if money is not well targeted, if it is not targeted where it is needed, if we do not introduce efficiencies, and if our programs are not effective. However, it is always possible to spend more money and actually achieve worse outcomes.

In relation to mental health, though, and the question that you are asking, through the work that we are doing-the development of a new mental health strategy and the creation of Mental Health ACT, which includes, under the new integrated arrangements for the delivery of health care in the ACT, both the Canberra and Calvary hospital psychiatric wards and the mental health teams-we believe that our strategic planning will be better, that our health care delivery will be enhanced and that we will indeed enhance the outcomes of the additional expenditure and the additional organisation which is being undertaken.

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