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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (14 November) . . Page.. 3641 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

I believe that, until we rectified this matter, the disparity in pay for a radiation therapist in the ACT as compared with New South Wales was in the order of 26 per cent, and similarly for Victoria. In those circumstances, as Mrs Dunne has just interjected, it is perhaps not surprising that ACT radiation therapists, being so poorly paid under the Liberal government, did move interstate, and we did have enormous problems under the previous government in retaining radiation therapists in the ACT-to the extent that, despite the establishment of and funding for 20 radiation therapists, the number of therapists on staff dropped to 12.3 full-time equivalents. That was almost directly a result of those two factors-a national and international shortage of radiation therapists combined with the fact that under the Liberals salaries for radiation therapists in the ACT were 26 per cent less than those paid to their counterparts over the border.

In addition to that, of course, the government has also provided $3.75 million in extra funding for essential new cancer equipment. This has allowed the Canberra Hospital to commission new multi-leaf collimators for the hospital's two linear accelerators. Since June, one of the linear accelerators has been operating at half pace due to the staff shortages that I mentioned. However, both linear accelerators are now fully operational during business hours due to the increased staffing levels, and that has had, quite obviously, a very significant impact on our capacity to treat better and in a more timely way people in the ACT requiring radiation therapy.

Recruitment activities are continuing, of course. We are still 41/2 full-time equivalent positions short of the agreed establishment. The Canberra Hospital advertises constantly, nationally and internationally, for radiation therapists, oncologists and, indeed, a range of other health care professionals.

In addition to the shortages in relation to oncology and radiation therapy, there are shortages in a whole range of other specialities, and this issue of work force shortages continues to be one of the greatest challenges facing the health care system in the ACT, in Australia, and indeed in the world. But there is just a gross shortage of trained specialists and people prepared to work within the health sector.

We do need some national leadership. We need the Commonwealth government to take seriously the terrible devastation that has been created through its funding cuts to the universities, and in the incapacity of the universities to offer as many places as is needed to overcome the dreadful shortages in a whole range of health care specialities, in nursing and, indeed, in the educating and training of GPs.

I digress to the point of acknowledging that this government has also, of course, agreed to fund a medical school in the ACT, at the ANU. We are directly intervening to see whether, in the funding and establishment of a medical school at the ANU, we can at least do something about the dreadful shortage of GPs in the ACT. That is a great first step, but there is so much more that needs to be done.

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