I am pleased today to talk to this motion in my name to discuss how the health infrastructure program is assisting in delivering the world-class health system we have here in the ACT. This government is continuing to recognise the demand areas and prioritise improvements to make sure we deliver the right services into the future so that our community continues to stay healthy.
This government is focused on making sure we invest in infrastructure for the future. We are making sure we are increasing access to services and we are making sure there is a focus on prevention to continue to improve our health and hospital services and address the growing demand.
Here in Canberra we have a fantastic health system. The hardworking staff provide a range of high quality services equating to over one million service episodes each year including, for example, care for inpatients in our hospitals, emergency departments, community care, medical imaging, pathology and outpatient clinics. Demand for services right across the system is increasing, including in outpatients, maternity and, of course, our two very busy emergency departments.
In 2014-15 ACT outpatient services reported with 563,221 non-admitted occasions of service. The 2014-15 preliminary figures suggest there were a total of 5,197 births at ACT public hospitals, an increase of four per cent when compared with the 4,999 births reported in 2013-14. In fact, last year’s figures represent the highest number of births within a single year for ACT Health and a 26 per cent increase—over 1,060 additional births—in the number of ACT public hospital births since 2009-10.
In 2014-15 ACT public hospital emergency departments had 129,963 presentations, a three per cent increase compared with 2013-14. This was the highest number of presentations recorded in a single year. The 129,963 result represents a 22 per cent increase in the number of presentations compared with the figure reported in 2009-10 and a six per cent increase compared to 2012-13 and 2013-14. There were 125,890 presentations to ACT public hospital emergency departments over 2013-14, the highest number of presentations ever. Over the last five years presentations to the ED have increased by 22 per cent, despite the ACT population growing by only nine per cent.
There are a range of reasons for the increasing demands on services, and they require a range of solutions, solutions we are delivering right across the health system. It is essential, however, that we have an understanding of what we are dealing with in terms of the reasons for the growing demand on all of our services so that we can plan for the future, demands we know we in Canberra are not immune from and will continue to increase.
We have an ageing population. This is a good thing; we are living longer and that is something to be celebrated. The ABS Australian demographic statistics in June 2014 said over the past two decades the number of persons aged 85 years and over increased by 153 per cent compared with a total population growth of 32 per cent over the same period. We know as we age we tend to need more care, but our elderly are not a burden; they deserve the best care that we can deliver.
An increasing incidence of chronic diseases and poor lifestyle is also having an effect on our health system. Cancer remains the leading cause of death, 29 per cent, in the ACT closely followed by cardiovascular diseases and then respiratory diseases. Almost four per cent of our population had either type 1 or type 2 diabetes in 2011-12.
Future projections from 2005 estimates show that between 15,000 and 22,000 people in the ACT will have diabetes by 2020. That is an increase of around 50 per cent.
In addition we are facing an obesity epidemic. This is a worldwide issue, and we are no exception in the ACT. In 2011-12, 63 per cent of adults and around one-quarter of children were reported as being overweight or obese in the ACT, and these rates are increasing.
Alcohol was also a contributing factor in injuries leading to hospitalisation, with 61 per cent men and four per cent under 18 years of age. The number of alcohol-attributable injuries in people aged 15 years and over being treated in ACT hospital emergency departments also increased. Unfortunately there are still too many Canberrans smoking. In 2011-12 the number of adults who reported being smokers was 15 per cent.
The consequences of obesity include increasing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, resulting in more healthcare needs and a poorer quality of life. It is well known that lifestyle factors are the biggest contributors to some cancers and cardiovascular diseases—our biggest killers. We know these figures, the federal government know these figures, but they have cut front-line services, particularly those delivering essential preventative measures, for example, through the flexible health funds programs.
Our GPs in Canberra are the front line of providing primary healthcare, and while it is fantastic there has been increased access to GPs in Canberra through increased number of bulk-billed patients, it is unfortunate there are people in our community who still have to consider the cost when deciding whether or not to visit a doctor. In February the Productivity Commission’s report on government services said the availability of GPs per 100,000 people continues to increase within the ACT from 65.5 in 2010-11 to 72.0 in 2013-14. In fact, that same report states that the proportion of Canberrans who report they deferred visits to a GP due to cost is the joint highest in the nation at 6.9 per cent. We know people come to ED when they could receive care elsewhere.
Despite this, the federal Liberal government have continued to try and rip apart general practice, further making bulk-billing even less accessible and hurting our vulnerable community members the most. The only consideration a sick person should have when thinking about visiting their doctor is whether or not they need medical attention, not whether or not they can afford the visit.
We are also lucky in Canberra to have the largest trauma and teaching hospital in the region, which offers high quality care for the worst accidents and complex medical cases. These are just a handful of the reasons demand is increasing on our services. I am, however, delighted to update the house on this government’s response to how we are addressing these demands and improving our health system.
The ACT Labor government is focused on making sure we invest in infrastructure for the future. We are making sure we are increasing access to services and we are making sure there is a focus on prevention. Completed projects under the more than $900 million health infrastructure program are already delivering more services, and the many new projects over the next few years will further deliver for Canberrans.
The most recent budget continued the significant capital investment in the health infrastructure program with a further $33.8 million. The health infrastructure program is about delivering the right care in the right place at the right time. What does that mean and what does that look like in terms of meeting demands? We have been increasing access to acute, subacute primary care and community health services through the health infrastructure program, to name a few.
The $23 million Canberra Hospital emergency department expansion project started in April this year and is on target and on budget for completion by the end of 2016. The emergency department will be expanded to have 1,000 square metres additional floor space and 21 additional beds, bringing the total number of patient treatment spaces from 54 to 75. The ED expansion will include a $5 million paediatric streaming function. The paediatric streaming function will involve transferring children and their parents or carers to a dedicated waiting area and then treatment area for young people when they attend the ED.
The waiting area will also have a play space, and the ED expansion will include a patient and visitor pantry and tea room not far from the paediatric streaming unit. This dedicated area will help to create rapid streaming and flow of patients to the point of care that best meets their needs. Families across Canberra will know how much this means when you are in ED with a child.
There are also the two walk-in centres at Tuggeranong and Belconnen. They are open from 7.30 am to 10 pm daily every day of the year, including Christmas Day and New Year’s Day with free access to healthcare for common illnesses, including treatment of colds and flu, cuts and abrasions, bites and stings, minor illnesses and minor injuries. Since the walk-in centres opened in 2014, they have seen more than 40,000 patients.
It was just over a year ago today that the wonderful Canberra Region Cancer Centre opened its doors to staff and to the people of Canberra and surrounding region. In the last 12 months it has already provided 30,000 occasions of service for cancer patients.
Delivering the clinical and supportive care for these patients is the 430-strong workforce made up of oncologists, radiologists, nurses, support staff, technicians and volunteers.
There are a number of community health centres across Canberra, including in Tuggeranong, Gungahlin and Belconnen, that were built as part of the health infrastructure program. The Gungahlin Community Health Centre opened on 3 September 2012, and the care provided by the community health centre is multidisciplinary and collaborative and is provided in a culturally safe environment.
I have had the great pleasure of taking a tour through the new Gungahlin facility located in the town centre and close to other community services. It is a wonderful new facility and houses some really experienced and enthusiastic staff. I regularly encourage locals to check it out for themselves. It provides a whole host of services for the local community, including community nursing, physiotherapy, podiatry, nutrition, a maternal and child health nurse, antenatal care, adult mental health, alcohol and drug services, pathology, child and youth dental service, diabetes and endocrinology and a women’s health service. It also has a women’s youth and children’s orthoptist, social work, physiotherapy and nutrition services.
These centres offer services aimed at assisting clients to better manage acute and chronic conditions in the community and closer to home while reducing their reliance on hospitals. In the last year alone more than 50,000 people have visited the community health centres across Canberra for treatment and advice.
The University of Canberra public hospital—UCPH—will be the first facility of its kind in the ACT, and construction is expected to start next year. UCPH will provide a new and innovative model specifically for rehabilitation and mental health care. It will be a teaching hospital to continue the integration of clinical and teaching environments, and it will provide research opportunities to benefit not only this facility and our community but the broader healthcare sector as well.
UCPH will be a purpose-built rehabilitation hospital. The hospital will have capacity for 140 overnight inpatient beds and 75 day places for rehabilitation, including mental health rehabilitation. It will focus on helping people become more independent and supporting them to have an enhanced quality of life. The new hospital will be located next to the University of Canberra and will be a teaching hospital, continuing ACT Health’s integration of clinical and teaching environments for the benefit of the ACT community and current and future healthcare providers. Training will be offered to students in a state-of-the-art facility. This relationship will also enable collaborative research opportunities that will benefit our community and the broader healthcare sector and help to build our healthcare workforce locally.
The planning of UCPH has involved substantial consultation with clinicians, user groups and consumer and carer representatives. ACT Health has sought input from Carers ACT, the Health Care Consumers Association, the Mental Health Consumers Network, the ACT Emergency Services Agency and ACT Health staff. The wider community also had the opportunity to provide input when the reference designs were released for public comment in March.
ACT Labor, led by this minister, Simon Corbell, wants the ACT to be a healthier, happier city. We are investing in health promotion and prevention services to reduce the increasing burden of chronic disease and related and more costly healthcare impacts. These initiatives will also increase business productivity in the ACT and health-related education outcomes.
Current estimates suggest that up to 80 per cent of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes and more than one-third of cancers worldwide could be prevented by eliminating shared, modifiable risk factors, such as those associated with smoking, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol. We are also investing in campaigns to reduce smoking during pregnancy, which are designed to have a direct health benefit to the mother and to their newborn baby by reducing low weight at birth and subsequent neonatal care costs.
Other specific programs supported by our recent budget include healthier work, ride or walk to school, kids at play, it’s your move, fresh tastes, smoking cessation and an interactive web-based data platform. The programs support the ACT government priority to invest in preventive health services to promote physical and emotional wellbeing and prevent disease across the ACT community.
I conclude by saying that as we continue to invest in services, preventive health and infrastructure, the federal government remain committed to ripping billions of dollars out of our health system and the health systems of other states and territories over the next decade. With federal cuts of $57 billion stripped from health, the ACT could expect to lose up to $600 million over the 10 years to 2026-27. In general terms $600 million would fund approximately 58,000 elective surgery procedures over the 10 years. Additionally, by the final year to 2026-27, this funding would have provided for a further 1,200 nurses or 80 intensive care unit beds or 340 general inpatient beds in the territory. I am proud to be part of this Labor government led by the Minister for Health, Simon Corbell.