Page 2598 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 2 July 2008

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One of the biggest issues that affect timeliness in the emergency department is the number of beds that are available in hospital, to get people through the hospital if they are going to be admitted. Around 25 to 30 per cent of admissions through the emergency department actually need to be admitted to the hospital. That is where we get access block, when we can’t get them through the beds fast enough. And, of course, we have been responding by replacing the 114 beds that the Liberals cut out of the system. I think it is quite incredible that the 147 that we have already put back into the system just got us to where we were 10 years ago. We almost have the same number of hospital beds that we had 10 years ago, before the slash-and-burn Liberals cut them all out of the hospital.

Mr Smyth: That’s not true.

MS GALLAGHER: Mr Smyth says it is not true. I have already tabled documents in this place that prove this about bed numbers. This is AIHW data. We know it is uncomfortable and we know you don’t like to hear it. We know Mr Smyth and Mr Stefaniak are probably the only two who were in the place when those decisions were taken, but they are still here, and they are responsible for the fact that our hospitals are under stress in terms of number of beds available. That data has been tabled. The opposition have not come back and said that the data is wrong. We will wait for that. If they can prove that the AIHW figures are wrong, I will be interested to hear that argument. But that data which is provided by AIHW clearly shows the cut in bed numbers that was overseen by the previous government. We have now got bed numbers back to where they need to be.

MR SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Mrs Burke?

MRS BURKE: Yes, thank you, Mr Speaker. How can the people of Canberra have any real confidence that there will be any improvements further in our emergency department waiting times under your leadership given your results to date?

MS GALLAGHER: In every area that is outlined in this report it shows continued improvement of the public health system, and that is directly down to the government’s injection of resources and of our overhaul of and introduction of new services to the health system. The people of Canberra can believe the $300 million that we have put in this budget to start off the complete rebuild of our hospital system infrastructure—

Mrs Burke: But they’re still waiting too long.

MS GALLAGHER: Mrs Burke needs a lesson 101 in public hospitals and the operation of public hospitals. “Still waiting too long”: yes, they are still waiting too long—because we need more beds. And what are we doing? We are injecting more beds—because what have you done? You have cut the beds. It is a pretty simple equation: the Liberal government cut 114 beds from the public hospital system and since 2001, every single budget, we have included beds in our budget; every single budget we have included beds. In fact, the cornerstone of the previous election campaign, under Mr Smyth’s leadership, of course was 100 new beds. Because they were so guilty that they had cut 114, they had to replace the 100 that they had cut. That was really the focus of their entire election campaign.

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