Page 706 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 8 March 2005

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The point that needs to be made in that respect is that in the six months from July to December last year over 4,600 Canberrans got access to elective surgery, the second highest level ever of elective surgery activity for a six-month period. So the government is spending more money on elective surgery and we are getting more people through and providing the elective surgery they need.

At the same time, the elective surgery list continues to grow. It continues to grow because specialists are making decisions that more people need elective surgery. The government is conscious that this is a cause of concern in the Canberra community. So the government, on top of the money it has already spent on elective surgery since coming to office, will continue to consider other ways, including additional resources, of further addressing this need.

It is worth outlining to members how much money the government has spent to date and how much it will spend in the future in terms of addressing elective surgery. Since coming to office, the government has provided an additional $7½ million for elective surgery activity. Over the period between now and 2008 the government will commit an additional $12 million to elective surgery. That level of investment is considerable. In 2004-05 we injected an additional $1 million to provide an extra 200 people with access to elective surgery. This is being targeted at joint and cataract surgery, where there are long category 2 waits.

We are also working in a range of other areas. For example, we are focusing on an increase in the number of general surgeons to provide access to elective surgery and improved management of emergency general surgery. We have also opened three additional intensive care unit beds and support for intensive care services at the Canberra Hospital. That will assist in reducing elective surgery postponements due to demand for emergency intensive care.

The government is undertaking a range of measures to address this pressing and difficult issue, but the government cannot be accused of not putting in the investment to improve access to elective surgery. There is always more that can be done. I am determined that we will continue to work hard on the issue, but the bottom line is that the government’s investment speaks for itself and we will continue to provide the investment that is needed to provide as many Canberrans and people from New South Wales as possible with elective surgery when they need it.

MRS BURKE: I have a supplementary question. The Chief Minister said earlier today in question time that he wears as a badge of honour the fact that the government has spent more in areas such as health. Minister, can you please explain why the community is continuing to pay more and receive less in service delivery—not more, as you keep saying—particularly in the area of elective surgery waiting lists?

MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, is Mrs Burke saying that we should not spend more on elective surgery? Is it the assertion of the Liberal Party that we should spend less on elective surgery? Is that the assertion? It is an absurd assertion. As I have just outlined to Mrs Burke, the government is spending more money and more people are getting access to elective surgery as a result.

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