Page 1767 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 4 May 2005
To address the issue of the additional medical beds: 20 beds are in place, 12 at Calvary and eight at the Canberra Hospital. These are in addition, of course, to 60 rehabilitation beds at the subacute facility scheduled to come on line late next year. These will support our efforts in elective surgery, help reduce access block in emergency departments and improve the ability of the intensive care units to transfer patients to general wards once intensive care has been finalised.
Ms MacDonald asked me: how do other initiatives also complement these two mainstays of the health budget? It is worth noting, of course, that the government has set aside a quarter of a million dollars to continue the activity of our discharge lounges at the Canberra and Calvary public hospitals. These discharge lounges are working. For the first time in the ACT, they are working.
Since the Canberra Hospital’s discharge lounge has come on line, over 1,100 people have accessed the lounge; that is, 1,100people who would have otherwise been waiting in their bed simply for the process of discharge to be completed. Instead, we have got those people waiting in a comfortable lounge for the final process of discharge to be completed, freeing up the beds, of course, for other people to use. That is what that funding is all about. Of course, Mr Speaker, that is another quarter of a million dollars too much, according to the Liberal Party—another quarter of a million dollars that they think should not be spent on the public hospital system.
On top of that, an additional $800,000 is allocated for the HACC program, the home and community care program, providing important care in people’s own homes and, again, tackling pressures on the acute care system. This additional funding will allow more patients to be cared for in the community, providing the support that people need to remain in their homes. Of course, that is another $800,000 too much, according to Mr Mulcahy—$800,000 too much.
I just wonder whether Mr Mulcahy has consulted his leader and shadow minister for health, because Mr Smyth, as shadow minister for health, actually wants to do more in health. But Mr Mulcahy does not want to spend as much. I just wonder whether this is another example of the divisions in the Liberal Party when it comes to leadership, when it comes to the future directions of the Liberal Party.
It is worth highlighting also for members that the budget provides $2.5 million for the implementation of a state-of-the-art imaging system for the Canberra Hospital. This new system, the picture archival communication system, or PACS, will replace the current film-based imaging service and will ensure that the development, distribution and storage management of hard-copy medical images is greatly simplified. Benefits to patients—and this is the key thing—include greater turnaround time from the time an x-ray is taken until it is available, greater reliability of the image and consistency of the image, and the image being able to be made available to several doctors simultaneously rather than having to be carted around by hand. That, again, greatly improves quality and safety and, importantly, decreases the number of delayed and rescheduled appointments. Again, that makes a big difference to the overall operation of the health system.
The government has got a comprehensive strategy in place to continue to tackle the key issues of concern to the Canberra community when it comes to health service delivery: