Page 3287 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 13 November 2007

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It is a concern to see staff who are there working incredibly long hours, never finishing on time. It is a concern to hear of nurses who are probably getting close to retirement age and who probably want to retire but who keep coming back because they feel responsible. It is a concern that they are doing double shifts, with the tiredness and other problems that actually go with that. Clearly, I think there are significant problems here, and a lot of it obviously does go to the management.

I think this is a very important matter of public importance brought by Mrs Burke. Despite what the government tries to say about it, at the end of the day, you cannot get away from the facts. You cannot get away from national assessments that show that our health system has rates which are some of the lowest in the country. There are people waiting far more time for elective surgery than other people elsewhere in the country. And you can make all the excuses you like. Yes, we are a regional centre and, yes, we do have probably 25 per cent or so of people coming into the region. But other hospitals have very, very similar problems.

At the end of the day, this is a government that has been in for six years. You can blame the federal government all you like. I will probably finish now on the point I raised to start with—that is, things you can do yourself to actually get more doctors in. I was pleased to see an ACT delegation go off to Ireland and England to get some people there, some schooled people, to come to Australia. But I have said on a number of occasions, as have others from the opposition, that, in terms of medical staff, there is an oversupply of trained doctors in Belgium, where there are more doctors than there are positions for them to take. I am told they are up to the Australian standard and speak English—in fact, they were trained in English in Belgium—and would be able to come to Australia. That is a short-term fix, but surely that is something the ACT government can do to address some of the strain we have in our system here.

Something is clearly wrong when you can go for years with about a two-hour wait in emergency. I have got a fairly sick family and I have certainly visited a few hospitals around the country. You have a one or two-hour wait at the Wollongong hospital, a one-hour wait in the Bathurst hospital, and here, regularly, with a few exceptions, you do have that incredibly long wait. That, in itself, I think, is indicative of the fact that something is wrong. It is not the fault of the federal government; it is something that is wrong at the local level and something that needs fixing.

Mrs Burke raises this matter of public importance about the management of public hospitals in the ACT. I think it is painfully obvious that, indeed, it can be improved. I certainly hope the minister addresses the questions about which my constituent wrote to her and, indeed, other questions people, no doubt, are putting to her and make some improvements in the system. It can probably never be 100 per cent; you are never going to get that in any sort of health system. But, clearly, there is a hell of a lot more this government can do, and it is not just continuing to throw money at it. There is more to it than that.

MR SPEAKER: The time for this discussion has concluded.

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