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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (18 November) . . Page.. 4223 ..

MR SPEAKER: Order, Mr Smyth!

MR CORBELL: We are delivering on making sure that work force issues and negotiations are dealt with in a timely, effective and reasonable way, and we are working wherever possible to avoid disruption to our public hospital systems. To date, with VMOs, we have achieved it.

The government has also taken significant steps in relation to allied health professionals. These are people who make up about 50 per cent of the ACT health system. Where did Mr Smyth mention them in his speech? Where did he talk about the vital role that allied health professionals play in our health system-physiotherapists, radiation therapists, social workers and all sorts of people working in our public health system delivering essential services every single day? We have recognised allied health professionals. We have put in place a particular position in the ACT health department to develop the professional work force capacity we need in allied health, recognising the role of allied health, promoting its importance and promoting the career and promotion capacity of those allied health professionals.

We have done the same thing with nursing. We have appointed a chief nurse-a first for the ACT-to recognise work force issues, to improve professional development in the nursing work force and to increase the capacity of the ACT health system to recruit and retain nursing professionals. These are important steps in improving the overall health of the system.

When it comes to mental health, we have funded significant services to improve capacity in the ACT: $400,000 to the Gungahlin outreach program, $400,000 for the residents of South Canberra, over $5 million for new sub and non-acute in-patient services and

$4 million for the refurbishment of the paediatric unit at the Canberra Hospital.

The government's commitment is a strong one, and not just in relation to public hospitals. It is in community health, it is in work force training and development, it is in mental health services and it is in all of the key areas that make the health system work and work efficiently. There is no doubt that our hospital systems are under strain. It is a phenomenon right around the country and right around the Western world. But only this government has the comprehensive agenda to address it.

MS TUCKER (4.16): I will contribute briefly to this discussion because other members want to make their points. I would like to support the comments made by Mr Corbell about the need, in a discussion like this, to talk about the holistic health question. In a matter of public importance about public health, it is certainly important to take that approach. We know that, in every sense, taking a holistic, interventionist and early prevention approach to health will have good outcomes in terms of not only health but also the economy and the costs incurred on the public system within the health system.

This is in some ways stating the obvious, but I think it has to be said again that if you look at the work that has occurred in this Assembly and previous Assemblies and committees, you will find many recommendations that are focused on basic public health questions that still, disappointingly, have not been properly implemented.

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