Page 482 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 5 March 2008

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public health system or public hospital system will involve substantial capital expenditure.

I will take this opportunity to make one thing perfectly clear to the government: if they intend their proposed upgrades to the ACT public hospital system to be a major election issue for their government, they owe the people of the ACT more than a vague outline of what they will do; they owe them some specifics. I hope that a clear timetable and costing for these changes will be available to the Assembly and to the public so that they are able to be properly considered as they are brought before the community.

I commend this motion to the Assembly. I believe that it provides a clear recognition of the evidence of poor performance that must be confronted; a tentative show of support for the government’s proposed changes; and the need for a clear commitment to give greater specifics on these changes—most specifically, a timetable of new developments.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Health, Minister for Children and Young People, Minister for Disability and Community Services, Minister for Women) (11.01): I thank Mr Mulcahy for the opportunity to talk about the ACT’s public health system. Over the last six budgets, this government has increased the health budget by about 60 per cent; that is, the cost of providing health services for the ACT community increased from $472 million to just over $800 million in 2007-08.

It is more than 18 months since the report on government services was delivered. There are some genuine improvements in access to services in the ACT. I have never stood here and said that there is no problem with the health system. I have never said that our times around waits for elective surgery or in the emergency department are appropriate or adequate. Yes, I do defend the health system. Yes, I do say we have outcomes that are the best in the country: on the basis of outcomes, we do. On waits for elective surgery, or some elective surgery, and for some categories of emergency department attention, we need to improve. But I have never stood here and said that we do not need to do that.

We know that people in the ACT choose the ACT public hospital system. Aside from the Northern Territory, we have the highest utilisation of the public hospital system in the country, despite having the highest level of private health insurance in the country. Even though people have the option to go to the private system, they choose to come to the public system. That is reflected in the reports that Mr Mulcahy talked about.

As I have said a couple of times in the Assembly recently, waiting times in the emergency department are improving. Data from the December quarter show that 81 per cent of category 2 patients were seen on time, against a national target of 80 per cent. This compares with 77 per cent this time last year and 67 per cent for that quarter of the year before. Some 55 per cent of category 3 patients were seen on time in the December 2007 quarter against a national target of 75 per cent. That is up from 46 per cent for that quarter in the year before. Some 56 per cent of category 4 patients were seen on time in the December 2007 quarter compared with 51 per cent for the same quarter last year. Our category 1 patients are always seen on time; that is 100 per

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