Page 2020 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 7 June 2017

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I sympathise with Ms Cody. She drew the short straw. They said, “You have to speak on something today in private members’ business, and it has to be health.” She is sick. It is ironic that someone with such a terrible throat would be speaking in the chamber on the importance of health. I am a great advocate for the public health notion of soldiering on being a really bad idea, and it is bad for public health. I can only recommend, now you have delivered your speech, Ms Cody, that you go home, take some appropriate medication and give your throat a rest.

Most of what Ms Cody spoke about was her personal reflections on the strength of the health system over time. I think that there is merit in that. As a long-term consumer of health services in the ACT, I can also reflect on some of those issues. But I will not do that today because I think that the meta-argument is more important. It is not how the health service delivers for me, but how the health service delivers for the people of Canberra. The question is not necessarily how much money we spend but how effectively we spend that money.

I am not going to quibble about the $1.8 billion in the budget for health, but it is not the best performance measure. I tend to bang on about this quite a bit, but it is not the best performance measure that you can have. I would like us to see work on this over time. I am glad that the Auditor-General is doing work in this space in relation to performance measures, because input costs are not a performance measure.

But with all the backslapping that we see in this motion, and I am actually also anticipating the amendments that have been circulated by the minister, what we see is in fact a very poor commitment to health. What we see is that in the Canberra Hospital, which is sort of the biggest consumer of the health dollar in the ACT, we have a neglected building.

There has been work done over the past little while. I, along with members of the health committee, had an opportunity to visit the refurbished accident and emergency services department quite recently. There is no doubt that the services are a vast improvement on what were there. I was particularly pleased to see the high level of facilities available especially in the mental health area and in the paediatric area. This is a much-improved space over the space that was there before and, before that, the non-existent paediatric space that I experienced when some of my children were younger.

But we have a 45-year-old building that is attempting to function when it is over-capacity; it has the worst emergency waiting times in the country; and it has the worst elective surgery waiting times in the country. We also have, anecdotally, poor performance in emergency surgery where people at the lower level of acuteness are regularly rescheduled in a way that is not good for their health outcomes. In fact, I believe, and this is not too much of a push, that when the Canberra Liberals promised in the 2016 election to demolish and rebuild buildings numbers 2 and 3, the government was eventually dragged kicking and screaming to an admission that perhaps they needed to do some work after all.

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