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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (18 November) . . Page.. 4219 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

More importantly, the number of overdue patients is expanding rapidly. It is not just the list but also the lack of attention to the list. The June 2001 figure, one of the lower figures, is 949 overdue patients. The number in September this year is 1,684 patients, and that is unacceptable. The numbers are just climbing under Simon Corbell, and I want to know if Mr Corbell understands the importance of this blow-out. I want him to recognise, as any health professional would, that overdue treatment is a recipe for worse long-term health for these patients. I want to hear him say, "Yes, I admit that overdue elective surgery treatment has risen sharply under this government."

I now move on to long waits for emergency treatment. Emergency treatment is perhaps the most important. When you want service for your family or yourself, you want to know that it is there. Also, a visit to the emergency department is one of the most unsettling experiences that people go through. Well, it is getting slower.

The recent ACT Health Annual Report, on page 25-the minister has just issued his erratum-shows that the waiting time is getting longer. Even in the absolutely vital category 1, although it says we are achieving 100 per cent against 100 per cent, later in the report it says it is not sure. The auditor had to qualify the result because they do not have a system that actually records it, and there may be a 1 per cent discrepancy. I have asked for information on that, and I am waiting for the response.

This morning we heard the managers of the emergency department warning the people of Canberra to expect slower service in the lead-up to Christmas. Professor Drew Richardson drew attention to the prospect of complications and worse results for patients left overdue for emergency attention. The people of Canberra are concerned about their health system. I wish the minister was.

MR CORBELL (Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (4.01): I am grateful to Mr Smyth for the opportunity to discuss this matter of public importance. Unlike Mr Smyth, the government does not take the view that public health stops at the hospital front door. If you had listened to Mr Smyth's speech throughout, you would have thought that is all the public health system was: the hospitals-in fact, just elective surgery in the hospitals or emergency departments in the hospitals.

These are important; don't get me wrong. But this MPI today is about the state of the ACT public health system, not just about the hospitals, and Mr Smyth reveals his inadequate understanding of the policy debate on the state of the ACT public health system by focusing on the hospitals. We all know that the public health system is much more than the hospitals. Perhaps Mr Smyth does not know it; but this government certainly does. It is about primary care, community care services and mental health.

We did not hear Mr Smyth mention anything about mental health, and perhaps that has got something to do with their appalling record of funding mental health over the seven years they were in government. We did not hear anything about that. We did not hear about investing in work force training, which is something this government has done through the Canberra medical school. We did not hear anything about drug policy, which this government is moving to implement.

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