Page 1719 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 3 May 2005

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As I mentioned earlier, health service costs are escalating at a rate much greater than general inflation as measured by the CPI. Further, while the territory’s population is recorded as growing very slowly, demand on the health system grows much faster.

Debate on waiting lists is of serious interest. However, it does not, of itself, provide a clear picture. Waiting lists can fluctuate for a number of reasons, of which the volume of service provided is only one. It is more illuminating to look at a couple of very basic statistics. In 2000-01, our two major hospitals recorded around 63,000 inpatient separations, compared with more than 70,000 in 2003-04. Over the same period, outpatient occasions of service grew from 361,000 to 427,000.

This budget addresses the severe pressures that apply to our health systems, as have the last three budgets of the Stanhope government. Funding has been provided for 300 extra elective surgery allocations in 2005-06, rising to 400 in 2006-07, through the elective surgery reform program. This program will focus on patients waiting excessively long times and ensure that those with the greatest clinical need get more timely access to treatment.

Discharge lounges at both Calvary and Canberra Hospital will continue to improve bed management and the timely transfer of patients awaiting hospital discharge. To improve access to acute hospital services and to ease the pressure on medical beds, the budget provides $2.3 million for an additional 20 medical beds in public hospitals. Up to 25 additional nurses and eight allied health staff will be recruited for the beds to become operational in 2005-06.

Canberra has an ageing population and there is an ongoing requirement to adapt community services and housing to meet the needs of our older citizens. This budget provides funding of $300,000 per annum for the development and implementation of falls prevention programs in residential care facilities. The successful intermittent care services pilot, supporting older people returning home following hospital stays, will also be expanded.

Additional funding has also been provided for medical and occupational health and safety equipment, dental services for high risk and special needs groups have been expanded, and growth in demand for medical oncology services continues to be met. The government has also provided capital of nearly $4 million for a new picture archival system for efficient access to hard copy medical images.

In relation to nursing, the development of an ACT-wide refresher and re-entry program to assist and support nurses and midwives wishing to return to the work force after an absence from the professions is funded at around $500,000 per annum. Ongoing funding has also been provided to establish nurse practitioner positions in the ACT.


Mr Speaker, in order to build on Canberra’s strength as a well-educated community, funding has been allocated to increase the hours of free preschool education for eligible four-year-olds from 10½ per week to 12 per week. The increased funding recognises the social and educational benefits to children of early learning experiences.

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