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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 15 August 2017) . . Page.. 2678 ..

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Canberra Hospital—emergency waiting times

MR MILLIGAN: My question is to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing. Minister, a constituent has told of her experiences in the Canberra Hospital on 8 August. She arrived at an almost full waiting room at 3 pm and waited for four hours before being escorted to acute care. The corridor was lined with patients on trolleys, some of whom waited until 11 pm or later to receive medical attention. At 8 pm a nurse told her that it was standing room only in emergency. She left after midnight and observed that the corridor was still lined with patients lying on trolleys. How often this month have patients been lying on trolleys at the Canberra Hospital due to the lack of beds?

MS FITZHARRIS: I will take the detail of the question on notice. It is not detail that I have in front of me. We know that we see every winter an increase in presentations to all emergency departments in all hospitals around the country. What we are seeing at the moment is that there has been an increase in presentations to Canberra Hospital emergency department, as there has been a smaller increase in presentations to the Calvary ED.

In relation to the specific questions that Mr Milligan asked, of course, all members are welcome, as are all constituents, to write to me about a specific experience that I cannot comment on in question time.

MR MILLIGAN: Minister, how often this month has it been standing room only in the emergency department of the Canberra Hospital?

MS FITZHARRIS: I reject the assertion that there is standing room only. Canberra Hospital emergency department has been expanded. It has expanded because our population is growing. It has also been expanded because, like hospitals all around the country, we are seeing increased presentations to emergency departments. One of the reasons we see that in the ACT is partially because of a lack of bulk-billing general practice services, among a whole range of other reasons. It is part of the reason why we have made a commitment in this budget to provide grants to bulk-billing general practices. It is also why we are expanding the walk-in centre network, so that people can access primary health care. But what we do see in emergency departments right around the country is increasing presentations, and increasing presentations of patients needing more complex care.

MRS JONES: Minister, other than rejecting the experience of Canberrans as an assertion, what backup plan does the hospital have to cope with peaks of demand, other than having people on trolleys for hours?

MS FITZHARRIS: Madam Acting Speaker, the Canberra Hospital plans each year for the flu season and for the winter season where we see more presentations. Part of that is a broad health strategy around public health. You will have seen both me and the chief health officer encouraging people to get a flu shot in the lead-up to the flu

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