Page 454 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 13 February 2013

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I suspect we have all heard the anecdotes of people who have gone to the emergency department because they have a bad toothache, a sore toe or a flu which needs antibiotics. Of course, we do know that it can be hard to get into a GP at short notice, and this, amongst other factors, is one issue which needs improvement. I think reducing the pressure on our emergency department will require a broad range of measures. I imagine that things like increasing people’s use of the walk-in clinic and increasing the number of walk-in clinics—points the Chief Minister has referred to today—are important steps. Certainly, the Greens took additional ideas to the election which included increasing medical check-up access for older people who are less mobile, through, for example, providing mobile health clinics or GPs stationed in aged-care facilities. These are the sorts of issues which I think are the broader answers to the question of waiting times in emergency departments.

Of course, a key area which the Greens believe deserves a much higher government focus is preventive health to help people stay healthier longer and to manage health issues themselves and with practitioners outside the hospital system. I suspect that the health department has already investigated many of these actions. That is why my amendment asks that the health minister detail what actions are already in play to help reduce the pressure on the emergency department. Instead of delivering another inquiry, our amendment today seeks to explore the strategies the government is putting in place, or plans to put in place, to address a very well-known subject. That is the spirit here. I think this comes to the point that Mr Hanson is trying to make, which is that we need a genuine attempt to improve performance. This amendment seeks to ensure that we have all the information on the table so that we can make a good assessment here in the Assembly.

Health is an incredibly complex area with multiple facets, reflecting transient population movement, ageing, birth rates, health promotions and public perception. I do not think we can unfairly target and focus in on the emergency department to the exclusion of other departments. That is why I think a broader discussion about access to the emergency department rather than a simple focus on waiting times is the direction the Assembly needs to take. I commend my amendment to the Assembly.

MR HANSON (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (11.29): I just indicate briefly that the opposition will not be supporting the amendment. There are two issues at hand with the amendment moved by Mr Rattenbury. The Auditor-General’s report 6 of 2012 was about data doctoring. We need to move beyond that. Obviously that is an issue that needs to be addressed in terms of improvement of health systems, but we need to make sure that we have a look at the system. Mr Rattenbury is saying that it is not just what is in the emergency department; it is what comes in and what goes out. I could not agree more. This is about the whole system. It is about what impacts on health in terms of demand, why people come into the emergency department, what options there are elsewhere—be it nurse-led walk-in clinics or be it other options—and then the outputs in terms of people getting into beds or being treated in the ED. The Auditor-General’s report 6 of 2012 is limited in scope and is not, in many ways, relevant to the broader question of the emergency department performance.

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