Page 4051 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 20 September 2011

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MR SPEAKER: A supplementary, Dr Bourke.

DR BOURKE: Chief Minister, how will the government manage growth in demand for elective surgery in the future?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Dr Bourke for the question. We are seeing promising signs in the management of elective surgery, but we must always look to the future. One of the challenges that this system has, regardless of the political flavour of the government that is in power at the time, will be that we have two public hospitals. Both of those public hospitals carry an emergency load. Indeed, that will not change. We will not have more than two intensive care units. So much of our elective surgery operations will remain within the two public hospital town.

In terms of the future, it must also include Queanbeyan. This is currently an under-resourced but new facility. I believe there has to be some resolution. Whether that be the ACT government managing operations at Queanbeyan Hospital or the New South Wales government managing operations at Queanbeyan Hospital, I do not really mind, as long as the hospital is actually doing what it was built for. That will significantly improve access to surgery, particularly with 30 per cent of our elective surgery program being provided to residents of the surrounding New South Wales region.

We will also look to continue our relationships with the private sector. I note Mr Hanson is not as supportive of those private-public sector relations. I think it is the future of any successful elective surgery strategy in this town, based on the fact that we are a two-hospital town and that there is some capacity in the private sector to do some high-volume work. For less urgent conditions, it gets them out of the acute system. We do not pay any more for it, that is a regulated price. And there is capacity in the private providers. It has to be seen as a viable option going forward. The other area, of course, is—(Time expired.)

MR HANSON: Supplementary, Mr Speaker.

MR SPEAKER: Yes, Mr Hanson.

MR HANSON: Minister, why is it that one in three elective surgery patients is waiting longer than clinically recommended times?

MS GALLAGHER: It is basically driven by demand and capacity, Mr Speaker. You cannot wave a magic wand and change the fact that 50 per cent of the work that is done in our hospitals every day is emergency work. Almost 7,000 operations are done every year in emergency work. When you have got half your capacity tied up doing that, you are going to have difficulty managing the demand in elective load. That is why other jurisdictions have flexibilities that we do not have. That is why I am looking to a solution with Queanbeyan. That is why I am looking for solutions in the private sector. This is not an issue that is going to be managed within the two public hospitals while they are carrying the emergency load that they carry for the region. It simply cannot be done, unless we dramatically increase the number of operating theatres in both of those hospitals. That will happen over time, but it will not happen

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