Page 2953 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 6 August 2008

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low-income households. The Stanhope government is continuing to invest in the future. This is important work that it needs to do.

It is perhaps in the area of health that this government has had to make up more ground than in any other. We inherited a health system that was suffering from chronic underinvestment and poor decision making. A stunning example of this is the 114 beds that were cut from our public health system by those opposite. Since then, this government has built a better and stronger health system. Investment in health has gone from $472 million in 2001-02 to $889 million in this year’s budget—a near doubling of spending on our community’s health system.

We have restored the 114 beds cut from the system and have increased those bed numbers even more. The increased number of beds has taken back the spaces converted from wards into administration. At the end of 2008-09, this government will have funded an additional 172 beds in our system. Our system will provide an estimated 855 beds.

The additional investment in beds for our public hospital system is working. In 2007-08, the average bed occupancy of our public hospitals was 89 per cent compared with 91 per cent in 2006-07 and 97 per cent just two years ago. This decrease in bed occupancy shows that the additional beds funded by the government are working to reduce pressures in our hospitals.

That is only the beginning, of course. We are also driving year-on-year record levels of elective surgery through our hospitals. Our system provided 7,847 elective surgery procedures, year to date, as of April 2008. That is 348 procedures above the number provided over the same period in 2006-07 and it puts us on track for yet another record-breaking year regarding elective surgery procedures.

Mr Speaker, one of the most important elements of our health system is mental health, as you know. Under those opposite, mental health funding slumped to amongst the worst per capita funding in the country. In contrast, we have increased investment by 143 per cent, and it now enjoys the second highest per capita spending in the country. I was particularly pleased to see the establishment of the first youth step-up, step-down centre here in the ACT.

We all know that decisions for the future need to be made now. We are facing the issue of the fastest-ageing population in the country. That is why this government has made such a significant commitment to public health infrastructure and services in the 2008-09 budget. This investment includes a down payment this year of $300 million in infrastructure as part of a comprehensive redevelopment of our health facilities which is likely to cost $1 billion or more.

In this year’s budget, we have funded: $90 million for a women’s and children’s hospital at the Canberra Hospital site; $37.6 million for a suite of mental health facilities, to include an adult mental health acute inpatient unit, a secure adult mental health inpatient unit, a mental health assessment unit on the Canberra Hospital campus, design of a mental health young persons’ unit and an additional $8.5 million of recurrent funding over four years for greater support for people with mental illness;

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