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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 14 Hansard (Thursday, 9 December 2010) . . Page.. 6103 ..

people can see them. And over the last four quarters you can see that there has been continued improvement in categories 3 and 4 despite an increase in demand.

I am absolutely certain that we will continue with that trend with the extra investments such as the surgical assessment and planning unit which we opened in the last couple of months, which is designed for surgical patients to be seen quickly and moved to a ward environment in the hospital. And, as I said, I think the next big investment in the capital sense is to ensure that our emergency departments have the extra capacity they are going to need to continue those improvements along the way.

The TCH emergency department, when you think of the magnitude of the job they do, is around a 30-bed facility, depending on how they are using those beds. On one day in the last six weeks, more than 200 people were going through that unit. When you think of the throughput that a small environment like that is able to deliver, I think the next area is that we need to increase the capacity of that.

I am very confident that Canberrans will see continued improvement in the emergency department performance. And can I say that, whilst people do raise concerns around timeliness from time to time with me, I am getting a lot of compliments about the standard of care that people receive in the emergency department.

MR HANSON: A supplementary, Mr Speaker.

MR SPEAKER: Yes, Mr Hanson.

MR HANSON: Thank you. According to the latest ACT Health annual report, access block for older persons has actually become worse in the last year. Mrs Jurello is the unfortunate human face of this statistic. Minister, how can older persons in the ACT, like Mrs Jurello, be confident that they will receive timely treatment at the emergency department, when the results show that things are clearly getting worse?

MS GALLAGHER: We do measure older persons’ access block separately to general access block, and that is to recognise the fact that older persons often do experience access block, not necessarily because they have not been seen but because they present with a range of complex circumstances that require a number of consultations from senior clinicians before a decision is made around where they should be admitted to the hospital. We have recognised that as an area of concern. Our access block figures have deteriorated, partly due to an amendment to the way Calvary report their access block figures. That is, I think, representative of and explains some of the deterioration.

But we did open the medical assessment and planning unit that was specifically designed for older Canberrans and those from regional New South Wales, who present with complex requirements, in order to get them out of the emergency department and then have the consultations done on the ward. Obviously that ward has some capacity constraints as well—the size of it—but we are looking at older persons’ experience in the emergency department as well to see whether we need to provide additional capacity through areas like MAPU to address any long waits they have.

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