Page 2597 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 2 July 2008

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according to the latest commonwealth government The state of our public hospitals report, despite the government spending more in recurrent expenditure per person than any other jurisdiction in Australia except the Northern Territory?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Mrs Burke for the question because it gives me the opportunity to put on the record a number of very significant achievements of the ACT health system, as reflected in both the AIHW and The state of our public hospitals reports.

In a nutshell, what the AIHW report shows is that in Canberra our hospitals are busier than ever before. They have seen six per cent growth—of course, this data goes back to 2006-07; that the rate of ACT public hospital usage is 11.8 per cent higher than in the rest of the nation; that our relative stay index is better than the national average; that we have seen improvements in emergency department waiting times across all the categories, which is something that we wanted to see; and that, when you are admitted, we provide the most efficient service and treatment when compared to national figures.

This report contains a lot of good news. It sees improvements in areas in which I have wanted to see improvement. In fact, I have come into this Assembly a number of times and said that these are areas that I wanted to see improvements in across the board, including in our emergency departments and in our elective surgery waiting times.

The report from the AIHW shows that, with respect to our category 1 patients, 100 per cent are seen on time. I think that makes us the best in the country. With category 2, we have seen an increase, up to 78 per cent, while the Australian average is 79 per cent. With category 3, we have seen a three-point improvement, to 51 per cent. In category 4, we have seen a two-point increase, to 50 per cent.

These are the areas that we have been focusing on. We have wanted to see improvements in emergency department waiting times. We understand that that is the area where our hospital system is under the most stress. We are continuing to see that in terms of the presentations to the emergency department. They are continuing to be as high as in jurisdictions such as the Northern Territory. We are looking at ways to improve access to GPs through some of the funding in the second appropriation that we have delivered. We have implemented a range of initiatives in the emergency department that we believe will see further improvements. In fact, this data is already a year old. All the data provided to the AIHW for the next report is already closed. So we are dealing with data that is a year old. In the quarterly performance reports, you can see more up-to-date data which shows the continued improvements in the emergency department.

We have almost finished the paediatric waiting area in the emergency department. We have nursing staff there to provide waiting room care. We have outlined to the Assembly and the community our vision for health infrastructure plans for the future. Of course, that involves doubling the size of our emergency department—doubling the number of beds available in the emergency department.

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