Page 492 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 5 March 2008

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and who have had troubles getting in to see a general practitioner. The other day I rang to make an appointment with my general practitioner with whom I had developed a relationship. Unfortunately, she has moved to Byron Bay.

MR DEPUTY SPEAKER: A sea change, Ms MacDonald.

MS MacDONALD: Yes, absolutely. We do not have the beach here, as my husband keeps pointing out to me.

I would also like to thank Mr Mulcahy for bringing on this motion. This government has done more than any other in the history of self-government in terms of additional investment into the public health system. Besides the general increase in funding for inflation and wage outcomes, the additional funding provided for our health services has been targeted to meet the government’s strategic objectives, which are aimed at improving access to services as well as continuing to improve the quality of those services. The government has also funded a range of initiatives which provide the community with additional options for care as well as projects and programs which improve the way care is provided.

I would like to address each of Mr Mulcahy’s dot points, and the first one relates to waiting times for care. As the minister said, the ACT has the second highest public hospital utilisation rate in the nation. In the latest information published in the AIHW for the 2005-06 year, our public hospitals managed 238.4 separations per 1,000 population. That is almost 12 per cent above the national average. However, the total utilisation rate for hospital services in the ACT, that is both public and private hospital services, is the same as the national average.

Perhaps more tellingly, the level of utilisation of elective surgery at ACT public hospitals was 30 per 1,000 population in 2005-06, 13 per cent above the national average of 26 per 1,000 population. So a greater proportion of ACT residents who need elective surgery choose to be treated in the public hospital system than in private hospitals. Why, is the question that must be asked. I would suggest that is because they are confident that their public hospital system provides them with a high quality of health care. They recognise the excellence that our public system provides.

Mr Mulcahy’s motion refers specifically to waiting times in the emergency department. I, like all those who have been interested in the health care system, recognise a major barrier to improving waiting times for emergency department care is access to suitably qualified emergency department physicians. Across the world health systems are trying to develop ways of attracting more doctors for their emergency departments. This is not a problem confined to within the borders of the ACT. However, even here we are seeing real signs of success. I understand that over recent months ACT Health has recruited an additional two specialist physicians for the emergency department at Canberra Hospital with another specialist to arrive in the near future. This access to additional emergency department specialists will also improve access to services.

Moving on to waiting times for elective surgery where the broad statistics do not provide enough information on positive improvements already made in this area, we

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