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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 2893 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

coordinate elective surgery between the hospitals. We have done some absolutely fantastic work there.

The emergency departments have experienced a 2.1 per cent growth in presentations. There has been a 3.6 per cent growth in weighted presentations for emergency. You pour scorn on the quality of our hospitals and belittle the staff, those people who are working extremely hard. Both our public hospitals, routinely meet targets of less than 1 per cent for unplanned readmissions. We have less than 4 per cent unplanned readmissions. Only 0.8 per cent of our public hospital patients have hospital acquired infections, almost the lowest rate in Australia. We have the lowest rate of caesarean births in Australia. These are some of the achievements you pour scorn on. These are the staff you deride-people who are working particularly hard.

I have already touched on mental health. A range of new programs are now in place-programs that were not there before-because of the additional funding we have provided. Mental Illness Education ACT will deliver 130 mental health sessions for secondary schools, colleges and community-based youth agencies. The CAMHS proposal will assist 12 to 18-year-olds who require intensive mental health intervention. That is an operational service, something that is on the ground. It is operating because we fund it.

The health and education departments have organised key partnerships in suicide prevention. I digress to respond to the comments Ms Tucker made. She accused me of being uncaring and insensitive in my responses to the deaths of some clients under the care at some time of the mental health service. There is a reverse to the position Ms Tucker put in relation to these issues. Ms Tucker criticised me quite roundly. It is a criticism that needs to be responded to. The extent to which I defended the mental health service, according to Ms Tucker, is insensitive and lacks respect. I reject that absolutely. We have a fine mental health service here and I, as minister, am prepared to defend it. I am prepared to defend those incredibly hard working public officers who work within the mental health service. They do sterling work. They do fine work. For them to be branded as a whole, holus-bolus, as not worthy of my support as their minister shows enormous disrespect by Ms Tucker for public servants in this town doing good work and doing it in difficult circumstances.

Certainly sad and tragic circumstances arise. Certainly it is tragic that people self-harm and take their own lives. There is no doubt about that. There is no getting away from that. But none of my comments in any way showed a lack of respect for those people or for their families or their carers. My comments were directed at the need for us to have some balance in this debate, to acknowledge the amazing work that some of our mental health workers do and not scapegoat them as in some way responsible as a result of neglect or lack of attention or disinterest. That was never my intention.

Ms Tucker made a point about the length of some coronial inquiries. I take the point. It must be extremely distressing for the people concerned. But there is another side to that position as well.

MR SPEAKER: The Chief Minister's time has expired. Would you like to use your second 10 minutes?

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