Page 2537 - Week 08 - Thursday, 30 June 2005

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emergency departments per head of population is 202. But Canberra has 309 per 1,000. Again, Mr Smyth’s claim is incorrect. It is completely incorrect. Those two figures alone demonstrate that our community has a higher need for elective surgery and for emergency department services than the national average. Those are the facts.

How does our system perform? Yes, there are areas of significant pressure. But there are two areas that I know Mr Smyth will not mention, so I will instead. The first, of course, is presentation of category 1 patients to our emergency departments. One hundred per cent of emergency department triage category 1 patients are seen immediately in the ACT. The Australian average is 69 per cent. So when it comes to that life-threatening emergency, we are well above the national average. Of course, Mr Smyth does not like talking about those things.

Finally, of course, the other category worth mentioning is category 1 elective surgery patients, those requiring the most urgent treatment. Ninety-eight per cent of all category 1 elective surgery patients are seen on time. This is second only to Victoria and well above the national average of 80 per cent. I can say with confidence that those people requiring the most urgent treatment, the most critical treatment, get it, and they get it on time here in the ACT.

The issue for us is addressing the other pressures in our system. They are important, too. They deserve our attention. The government is delivering those services. But this is the contrast, I guess, between us and the Liberal Party. We have a clear strategy in place to address these pressures. We know where we are doing well. We know where we have pressures. But what do we have from the Liberal Party? We have this spend less, spend more philosophy.

We have Mr Mulcahy, the aspirant to Mr Smyth’s job—he is there scheming and plotting and putting out the feelers to take over Mr Smyth’s job—saying, “Spend less.” He is saying, “Do not spend so much on a hospital system. We have this burden on the Canberra community.” He estimates that it is $100 million more than it should be per year. Mr Mulcahy’s view is, “We spend $100 million per year too much on our hospital system for the level of service we get.” And what does Mr Smyth want to do? He wants to spend more. This is the confused policy approach of the Liberal Party. In contrast, we know where the pressures are. We are targeting the resources to address it and we are targeting reforms in our health system overall.

Health funding

MR MULCAHY: My question is to the Minister for Health. In estimates you said:

The portfolio is no different from any other portfolio in the territory government insofar as it must work to meet, and not exceed, its budget.

You will no doubt recall that I pressed you on how you would stay within a budget increase of only four per cent in the outyears when health expenditure in the recent past has grown by around 11 per cent. You replied:

The savings measures … are clearly spelt out, and equally the target that we are expected to deliver has been clearly spelt out to me by my cabinet colleagues, and is spelt out in the budget paper ...

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