Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (18 November) . . Page.. 4220 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
Let's look at the broad spectrum of the capacity and the effectiveness of the ACT's public health system, including, but not exclusive to, our public hospitals. The government has a strong record, and I will start by responding to particular comments that Mr Smyth raised in relation to our public hospitals. Mr Smyth said, "All those urgent people and all those emergency cases showing up in emergency departments will have to wait longer."Emergency department staff were on the radio telling people, "Do not come to the hospital. If you do, expect a long wait."
The misleader of the opposition strikes again. What the Canberra Hospital said was, "If you present at the emergency department for a non-urgent category 4 or category 5 case, unfortunately, you will have to wait."That is a sensible step to take. In fact, it was a step taken by Mr Moore when he was minister for health under the ACT Liberal government, and by his predecessor.
Why do we do that? We do that to relieve some of the pressure on the emergency department. Why are category 4 and category 5 cases showing up in our emergency departments? The decline in bulk-billing and the availability of GPs is why category 4 and category 5 cases are showing up in our public hospitals. Who is driving that change? Mr Smyth's federal colleagues are driving that change-people in the federal government who are dismantling Medicare, dismantling bulk-billing and forcing people to get basic primary care through our public hospitals. That is the reality.
But Mr Smyth goes further. His capacity as the misleader of the opposition knows no bounds.
Mr Smyth: Point of order, Mr Speaker. You ruled earlier today that a mislead by a member was an imputation. I ask that you get the minister to withdraw the comment.
MR SPEAKER: Minister, would you withdraw that?
MR CORBELL: I apologise and withdraw the comment, Mr Speaker. Mr Smyth casts aspersions on the adequacy of the figures when it comes to category 1 in the emergency department, saying, "We can't be sure about the figures, because they're not audited."What Mr Smyth fails to acknowledge when he talks about the auditing process for category 1 is that the measure is exactly the same measure that has been used for as long as we have reported that statistic, including all the time the previous government was in power. Exactly the same measure and exactly the same reporting mechanism were used.
What has happened? The auditor has changed his mind. What he wants is a paper copy of when a person is admitted as a category 1 patient. Well, I am not, and my department is not, going to ask the staff in the emergency department to hold the ship-"This bloke might be having a heart attack, but you've got to record it for the auditor."No, I am not going to do it, and the previous government did not do it either, for exactly the same reason. Before Mr Smyth seeks to cast even more aspersions on our health system, he should check his facts.
I would now like to move to equally important issues that Mr Smyth failed to highlight in his speech. First, I will address the issue of the financial position of ACT Health.