Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 26 June 2008) . . Page.. 2165 ..
the case. It would certainly be our aim in government to give Canberrans the best hospital system in the country, not just one that is good in some areas but the best in all areas. It is not good enough that we lag at the bottom of the pile in all those key indicators and that we are the bottom of the pile in this country. We expect that Canberrans would have the best health system in the country by far, and that would be our goal. That is something that this government has simply not delivered for all of the extra spending, and we know that is because sometimes their priorities have simply been in the wrong place.
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (10.17): Before I begin on my health budget speech, I just want to say that the health system is a lot more than a hospital system. I just heard the Leader of the Opposition say that the Liberals would provide the best possible hospital system, but the hospital system is only one bit of the health system. I would like to hear them speaking a little more broadly, because there is a lot more that we need to do for people’s health to avert their journey to the hospital.
We are very lucky in Canberra in that we have one of the healthiest populations in Australia. We certainly have every amenity for maintaining personal health. But we are also a regional centre in our health services, and I know that we service people from as far away as East Gippsland in Victoria, where I come from, and probably way down the coast. It is a very broad region; therefore our hospitals actually have to cater for more than our own healthy population.
It looks very much as though this year’s budget is more about infrastructure and less about primary health care, as I mentioned earlier. The minister said in the estimates hearing that the ACT government is not a big provider of primary health care because it is mostly GPs. It seems any moves taken in this area have to be carefully managed, because GPs can be very tricky. To quote Ms Gallagher discussing primary health care walk-in centres:
So the work this year will be just to consult, discuss, liaise with existing primary health care providers about the best model to get up and running, because, look, if I get the support of the health care providers for this then the chances are they will be a lot more successful than if there are disagreements …
The infrastructure is necessary and expensive. I understand the requirement to spend on it, and I realise that it probably does not leave a lot of money for the other less pointy areas. But the pointy areas are going to keep growing unless we do more preventative and primary work.
There is also one area of infrastructure which seems to have been missed. As the Health Care Consumers Association expressed during their attendance at the estimates hearings, there needs to be a commitment to network IT amongst health care agencies to allow for better service delivery. This is an area which warrants greater investigation.
In terms of mental health, I welcome the spending on the new PSU and the employment initiatives. Not all expenditure is good expenditure, but this is very likely to be. As ACTCOSS asked and as was discussed in the estimates process, is the money enough? Are the community services that handle much of the mental health