Page 236 - Week 01 - Thursday, 15 February 2018

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our growing community. 2018 will be a big year for our community, with a number of important milestones to be reached and projects delivered.

The Barr Labor government are delivering on the agenda we took to the community in 2016. At its heart is our community, the people who make up our wonderful city. As I said this time last year, we must plan now for a future that includes more people and families while retaining the livability our city is rightly proud of. Our agenda is focused on our community’s needs, on the growth and success of our city and on responding to the challenges and opportunities ahead. And, above all, it is about providing the opportunity for everyone in our community to live a healthy and prosperous life.

The health of Canberrans will always be a priority for Labor. We will continue to invest in health care to keep Canberrans healthy and deliver better care where and when they need it. We will ensure that, if and when Canberrans get sick or need access to health care, they can trust that they have a world-class health system that is patient centred and focused on making them well.

Our status as the country’s healthiest city is evidenced in the recent Report on government services. ACT residents have the highest life expectancy in the country. Smoking rates have been decreasing over the past several years due to our initiatives to tackle smoking, including recent restrictions on smoking in areas near children, such as playgrounds and public transport waiting areas. We have some of the lowest rates of cancer and diabetes in the country. We consistently have some of the highest immunisation rates and our kids have the equal lowest rate of obesity in the country.

The ACT also has more nurses, midwives and medical practitioners per head of population than the national average. We have an excellent health workforce which will continue to grow, with our focus this year on a workforce attraction strategy to fill specialist gaps in the workforce. In last year’s budget we delivered $443 million in new health investments and services, building on the $1.6 billion the ACT government already invests in healthcare services each year.

We simply cannot be the healthiest city in the country without an excellent health system. This does not happen by accident. As Labor members, we share pride in our investments in the health of our community. This year we will continue to improve access for our community in all areas of health care, from acute care services at the city’s and the region’s major tertiary hospital, the Canberra Hospital, and at Calvary Public Hospital, Bruce, including inpatient and outpatient care to the soon-to-open rehabilitation hospital at the University of Canberra, to our community health centres, services like hospital in the home and, of course, our nurse-led walk-in centres.

In so many areas we provide excellent, high quality, compassionate care, but we must continue to improve. We will continue with a range of reforms that, coupled with Labor’s record investment in health, are essential to improving our health system and responding to emerging opportunities and challenges. I acknowledge there are areas where we have come from behind and where we simply must do better, and we are. On many measures we continue to improve. If you look, for example, at the improvement in median wait times at Canberra’s hospitals between 2012 and

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