Page 2779 - Week 09 - Thursday, 27 September 2007

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Hospitals—emergency department

MS PORTER: My question is to the Acting Minister for Health. Minister, could you update the Assembly on further recent initiatives that the ACT government has made to improve our emergency departments?

MR CORBELL: I thank Ms Porter for the question. There are three issues that need to be addressed when it comes to access to our emergency departments: reducing bed occupancy—making sure we have beds available; increasing capacity; and changing the way that health care is delivered not only in the ED but also throughout the hospital and into the community and the primary care sectors. So the government is focusing very strongly on these three key issues.

First of all, can I deal with the issues around the emergency department. We, as a government, have taken significant steps to improve access through the emergency department. This has been done through the access improvement program. This uses the experience of the staff and draws on their knowledge and their experience to redesign the system of how patients are managed and treated through the emergency department, and this has led already to the implementation of a number of key initiatives.

The opposition are very big on the rhetoric but very shallow—in fact, non-existent—on the policy. Where is their policy? All they say is “blame the bureaucracy”. That is not a policy—just blame the management. What about some detailed initiatives like these ones that I am very pleased to outline to the Assembly today? For example, the government has established the new fast track system within the emergency department, which identifies patients that do not require complex care. These patients are then redirected to the fast track zone, which is an area within the emergency department where they are provided with appropriate and timely treatment that enables their discharge within two hours. That is a detailed policy response, unlike the lack of substance and lack of detail we hear from those opposite.

There is also, for example, the introduction of the three-two-one patient tracking system, which divides the journey for patients that are to be admitted from the ED into three manageable time periods which cover treatment, three hours; inpatient handover, two hours; and transfer to a ward bed, one hour. Again, that is a substantive response to managing the challenges within the ED. But is it the sort of policy detail we hear from those opposite? No, it is not, because they don’t have any. They don’t have any detailed assessment or policy approach. All they talk about is blaming management. That is not going to get us very far in addressing the challenges our public system faces.

Mr Speaker, there has already been substantial improvement as part of this access improvement program. These are the outcomes of the access improvement program that Mr Smyth, when he was shadow minister for health, criticised. When Mr Smyth was shadow minister for health, he said, “This is not going to achieve anything.” Well, it already has. Let me highlight a figure that demonstrates that. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare recently reported that the average treatment time in

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