Page 157 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 8 December 2004
MR CORBELL: The primary issue deals with the director of the alcohol and drug program, who is now no longer in that position in ACT Health.
Hospital waiting lists
MR STEFANIAK: My question is also to the Minister for Health. Minister, waiting lists under this government have increased from 3,488 to 4,722, and waiting times for elective surgery have got far worse under this government. The Auditor-General has now found, on page 56 of her report, that the number of surgical operations at the Canberra Hospital has declined by 2.9 per cent for the 11 months to June 2004.
Given that waiting lists under this government are blowing out, waiting times have got far worse and the number of surgical operations at the Canberra Hospital, according to the Auditor-General, is falling, will you now admit that your reforms have failed?
MR CORBELL: I thank Mr Stefaniak for the question. As I indicated to members yesterday, we are undertaking more elective surgery now than has ever been undertaken previously. The government has invested an additional $20 million into elective surgery over the next four years. Already in this financial year we have seen an extra 800 Canberrans, above and beyond what was projected, get access to elective surgery as a result of the government’s initiatives.
At the same time, we have seen a very significant increase in the number of additions to the lists. Not only has the number of removals from the list—that is, surgery undertaken, amongst other things—been at its highest level ever but also the number of additions to the list is also at its highest level ever. That is putting a strain on the system, and the government is responding to that with an additional $20 million for elective surgery over the next four years. As I indicated yesterday, just in the 2004-05 financial year there will be an additional $1 million to provide another 200 people with access to elective surgery targeted at joint and cataract surgery.
So the government is working hard on this issue. It is a difficult issue to address. Despite the very significant increase in funding, we are still seeing record numbers of people being added to the list, and we will continue to work hard to address those issues.
MR STEFANIAK: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Minister, why have the government’s so-called reforms to the health system made the health system worse?
MR CORBELL: It is a simplistic assertion if you decide that the only way to measure the performance of a health system is through elective surgery activity. That is the assertion in the Liberal Party’s comments. That is the assertion in their comments. It has got worse because waiting lists have gone up.
Well, Mr Speaker, there are other measures as well that should be taken account of. For example, I do not hear the Liberal Party mentioning that, in the past six months, the government has reduced access blocking our emergency department down to a level of 20 per cent because or our reforms. We do not hear the Liberal Party talking about that measure because it does not suit them. The level of in-patient activity through an emergency department is at a record high—the busiest ever period.