Page 2649 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 7 August 2013

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When it comes to an Auditor-General’s review of the emergency department, the Greens do agree that emergency department waiting times need to be addressed. Again that has been acknowledged in this place repeatedly—the desire for improvement there. When we last debated this in February, the last time Mr Hanson brought a motion forward in this regard, the amendment I put forward called on the Minister for Health to detail the government’s plans to improve waiting times in the emergency departments.

As a result of that, in March 2013 the Chief Minister tabled the emergency access plan 2013-17, which outlined the government’s plans for improving patient flow and waiting times at the emergency departments at Canberra and Calvary hospitals. There is quite a list of initiatives in there. Members will recall this document as it was tabled in the Assembly, which the motion in February required. It goes through in quite some detail the initiatives and the timing for them, and provides it in quite a comprehensive way.

I believe that is a very useful plan which gives a full and holistic picture of what the various improvements are which are being undertaken and when they will occur. I believe it is a plan which will work to address waiting times in the EDs, and one which we should ensure that the government stays focused on. We cannot sit here at this point and guarantee that this will produce all the results we hope that it might. But it is the best plan that ACT Health, I guess in partnership with the minister, have been able to prepare at this time. There is a level of transparency there and certainly time lines on which the government can be held to account. I think that gives the Assembly a strong foundation moving forward to examine this issue.

The budget for this year, the 2013-14 budget, funds a number of targeted initiatives which are designed to improve performance and waiting times in the emergency departments, including $8.25 million to complete the planning and forward design stages of a new public hospital at the University of Canberra, $12 million for improving services at Canberra Hospital’s emergency department and to establish a rapid assessment unit at Calvary Public Hospital, and introducing mobile primary health care. I certainly look forward to working with the government to develop this program in future years because we know that mobile services such as these can make a real difference for some people between seeing a doctor or a dentist and not doing so. Whilst they are not a direct substitute for a trip to the emergency department, we know that that kind of preventive work, where somebody’s health problems are picked up early and they are given the treatment that they need, can mean that something does not become worse and ultimately result in a trip to the emergency department.

That is certainly a key emphasis of the Greens in our health policy—to acknowledge that pressure on the EDs is growing and that we really need to look at some of the root causes for that and at whether we can provide solutions now that take pressure off the emergency department and perhaps provide extra resources or new strategies where they are needed, while also looking at the longer term strategy of trying to avoid people needing to make that trip to emergency.

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