Page 2030 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 6 May 2009

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with a disability in the ACT that came across my desk just weeks after my election. The ongoing advances in medical technology have enabled individuals who acquire disability through illness or accident to have better opportunities and expectations than was previously possible. Officials at Disability ACT have told me that in the ACT in any given year we can expect three to four new diagnoses of people with newly acquired disability that will require support from government. There are a number of other individuals who will also be diagnosed who may have other means of private support, through family, insurance and/or compensation.

I am quite amazed by the seemingly insurmountable stumbling blocks and red tape that are placed in the path of those who most need our assistance, people with disabilities and their families. One of these stumbling blocks is undoubtedly time—the time it takes to wait for services, the time it takes to convince the government that something needs to be done. And there is the inability of our system to cope with issues that appear to be different at times and the fact that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for all human beings.

I have become aware of at least three individuals who are currently in the so-called waiting room in ward 12B at the Canberra Hospital. Ward 12B is a rehabilitation ward, and it must be said that it is not unusual for patients to spend a long time in this ward. I am aware of a friend’s father, a stroke victim, who spent three months rehabilitating in this ward.

I have personally visited this ward since being elected as an MLA—and not without my own exposure to the hospital bureaucracy, which initially tried to stop me from visiting a constituent. The officials at the hospital seemed somewhat nervous about my first visit, even after I assured them that I was at the hospital at the invitation of a constituent, a patient who had raised concerns with me through her advocate—concerns and a request for help that was also made to the Minister for Disability and Housing in November 2008.

The minister and, I assume, Disability ACT were well aware of the issues raised by this patient. In fact, I was given a briefing by the department, at the direction of the minister, on 9 February this year. I note the following extract from the DHCS website document Partners in transition to the community project: newsletter 1, January 2009:

The issue of transition to community living for long-term patients in hospital with complex and ongoing needs is a consistent and significant challenge for staff and service providers. There are examples of patients remaining in hospital for over 12 months after they have been declared medically ready for discharge. These are younger people who have experienced traumatic brain or spinal injuries or who have degenerative and disabling health conditions (such as Multiple Sclerosis, Huntington’s Disease, Motor Neurone Disease) and it is inappropriate for them to enter residential aged care services.

Whilst the financial costs of remaining in hospital are significant for the health system, the ACT Government also acknowledges the large social cost to the individual and their families and carers.

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