Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 2886 ..
MS DUNDAS (8.19): I will be brief in rising to speak about the Department of Health and Community Care as I believe that health is an area in which the government is doing its best in terms of meeting community needs. However, I think that the government should be focusing more on preventive health, particularly the prevention of diseases related to smoking and sexually transmitted diseases.
I am also doubtful about the government claims that sufficient drug detoxification beds are being provided to meet the demand. We must remember that drug use is best viewed as a health issue and not as a criminal one, and hence the drug issue needs to be largely addressed within this appropriation for the Department of Health and Community Care.
MRS DUNNE (8.20): Mr Speaker, I rise to speak on behalf of the people of Belconnen and Gungahlin who have been left entirely bereft by this Health Minister, who just throws up his hands and says, "It is all too difficult. Yes, I will condone the closing of elective surgery for 12 to 14 weeks and I will do nothing about it."
As my colleague has said, his only response was that we will have to bear the pain. I say to him: ask the grandmothers of Holt or Nicholls who need to have their hips replaced whether they are prepared to bear the pain. You will be finding that you will have almost a doubling of the number of people seeking elective surgery at Calvary Hospital, with a great preponderance of the people being in orthopaedics and areas such as that where the need is great and the pain is great. They will just have to bear the pain, put up with it, because this Health Minister, this Chief Minister, has been so recalcitrant as to have done nothing about the crisis that he has created and he has overseen at Calvary.
What has this government done to address the throughput at Calvary? It says, "In the last one we put some money in, but that has all come to an end." What will happen at Calvary? My experience from talking to doctors is that for months before this happened there was a gradual closing down of the theatres. Theatres were running at half-pace. The hospital was running one or two theatres when it should have been running five or six. That has been adding to the elective surgery waiting list. Now we will have no elective surgery for 12 weeks out of 52. We have had an admission from the Calvary staff that that will result in an increase of close to 100 per cent in the elective surgery waiting list, which will then kick on into the Canberra Hospital and it will have to take up the slack.
What has this government done to address the throughput? Nothing. What does this government do to get the patients who have private health insurance out of the public elective surgery waiting list and on to the private waiting lists? Nothing. We were told at estimates that they have a strategy. Every time they were asked a question about what was happening in the hospitals they said that they had a strategy. It was often a cunning strategy or an innovative strategy. But what we are seeing is an extension of the waiting lists. The people of Canberra do not need cunning and they do not need innovation; they needs their hips replaced when they have to be replaced. They do not need to have to wait extra time because this minister stands in this place or sits at estimates and says, "The people of Canberra will just have to bear the pain."
That is an abrogation of responsibility and of everything that a Labor minister for health purports to stand for. This is a man who purports to stand for social justice, but when it comes down to the basics, such as getting a hip replaced, what do we get from this man? We get absolutely nothing. This man is a disaster for the people of Belconnen and the