$60m injection to maintain swamped hospital services

Ian Bushnell 6 February 2020 50
Canberra Hospital

Increasing demand has meant Canberra Hospital has been overspending. Photo: George Tsotsos.

Greater than expected demand has seen Canberra Hospital blow its budget for 2019-20, with the government having to tip in an extra $60 million to maintain services, particularly for elective surgery and emergency.

The cash injection comes as a result of the Mid-Year Budget Review, and will mean the Budget will take a hit to its bottom line.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith told ABC Radio that Canberra Hospital had been overspending for 2019-20 to keep up with growing demand.

She said the need for emergency and elective surgery had grown significantly over the past four years, along with an increase in emergency department presentations.

The extra spending comes after the Report on Government Services showed ACT was the worst in the nation in terms of seeing urgent and semi-urgent patients on time.

Health data consistently shows the ACT has poor waiting times, with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare last December reporting the Territory had the lowest rate of emergency department patients being seen on time in Australia.

Nationally, 71 per cent of patients were seen on time. In the ACT, only 46 per cent of patients were seen within the designated time frames.

Canberra Hospital’s treatment costs remain stubbornly high compared with other major hospitals.

Ms Stephen-Smith said the Government, while providing extra funding to maintain services at the current level, was also continuing to look for savings and efficiencies, but no staff or elective surgeries would be cut.

“We know that in a lot of spaces our hospital system is a lot more expensive than around the country and we need to continue to bring these costs down,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

The minister attributed the extra demand to the flu season, an increase in emergency patients requiring surgery, and patients presenting at the ED with complex conditions, including mental health issues.

There had been a 14.1 increase in emergency surgeries over the last four years.

“It’s really about Canberra Hospital continuing to meet its elective surgery targets while meeting this pressure that’s coming on in relation to emergency surgery,” she said.

Ms Stephen-Smith said 14,000 elective surgeries were completed in 2019 and the hospital system was on track to meet this year’s target of 14,250.

She said it was expected the expanded Calvary emergency department, due to be completed next month, would make a positive impact on the situation, delivering a 20 per cent increase in emergency treatment spaces across the ACT.

Last year’s Budget saw an increase to staff at the Canberra Hospital ED.

Ms Stephen-Smith said people were using the nurse-led walk-in centres and this was relieving some of the ED pressure in the lower presentation categories.

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50 Responses to $60m injection to maintain swamped hospital services
Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 11:07 pm 08 Feb 20

A simple effective solution would be more GP’s who bulk bill. ( this could be govt subsidised if need be)

Peter W Herman Peter W Herman 8:23 pm 08 Feb 20

I was a patient if Canberra hospital for 10 months back in 2017, and the only complaint that I had was that the breakfast menu for food was terrible and after 10 months, I looked like either a corn flake or a rice bubble, but otherwise the nursing staff( except one nurse)were fantastic and the deserve all the accolades and also pay rises that they get

To the minister...don’t debug on what they want, but get the new wing done and fixed ‘yesterday’

David Brown David Brown 9:34 am 08 Feb 20

Only because it is an election year.

Zakzook Chico Zakzook Chico 8:52 am 08 Feb 20

Sounds like buying votes for the upcoming elections

    Julie Maynard Julie Maynard 9:25 am 08 Feb 20

    Itshak Zac Yosef or maybe they are just fixing a broken system.

    Zakzook Chico Zakzook Chico 9:59 am 08 Feb 20

    Julie Maynard yeah pigs might fly too

Mon N Matt Mon N Matt 8:07 am 08 Feb 20

Do not get sick in the ACT!!!! Hospital System here is terrible 😡🤬

Chris Olsen Chris Olsen 6:17 am 08 Feb 20

7hr wait last night(this morning) for my son’s broken arm 🙁

    Robert Knight Robert Knight 8:02 am 08 Feb 20

    Chris Olsen here at Canberra Hospital?

    Chris Olsen Chris Olsen 8:34 am 08 Feb 20

    Robert Knight Yep, staff were lovely, just not enough of them

    Robert Knight Robert Knight 9:19 am 08 Feb 20

    Chris Olsen far our mate. I had a doctor friend who came all the way from Townsville to locum there last week.

Narelle Ford Narelle Ford 11:24 pm 07 Feb 20

It’s because of the increase in people presenting to ED because of asthma and other breathing problems that have been caused by the bushfire smoke.

    Alex Miller Alex Miller 5:08 am 08 Feb 20

    Narelle Ford not sure we have any numbers of smoke related presentations available yet..

    Narelle Ford Narelle Ford 7:22 am 08 Feb 20

    Alex Miller Yes we have. It’s been in the media. I’ll try to find it for you.

    Jo Miles Jo Miles 1:04 pm 08 Feb 20

    Narelle Ford I don't think that is the problem. This has been longer term, of greater magnitude and will be more ongoing than that.

    Narelle Ford Narelle Ford 1:17 pm 08 Feb 20

    Jo Miles I see what you mean. The smoke related increase presentation to ED hasn’t helped at all.

    Melissa Hobbs Melissa Hobbs 9:26 pm 08 Feb 20

    Yes funny that! Must be the huge growth in the population and lack of focus on prevention to keep these people out of hospital!

Julie Donda Julie Donda 9:11 pm 07 Feb 20

Maybe if people stopped using ED as a doctors surgery it might help?

    Enistrich Snave Enistrich Snave 7:59 am 08 Feb 20

    Julie Donda it’s also long wait times for a Dr at their rooms and expensive as well, so I am empathetic to people going to ED. Perhaps some more publicity for the walk-in clinics could help.

    Gerry Gageldonk Gerry Gageldonk 10:38 am 08 Feb 20

    Christine Evans and place a charge on ED if it's not urgent $10?

    Julie Donda Julie Donda 11:53 am 08 Feb 20

    Christine Evans I agree more publicity for the walk in clinic and more eduction. What annoys me is when a person with a minor problem goes to ED and then complains about the long wait, because the staff are busy saving lives!

    Julie Donda Julie Donda 12:01 pm 08 Feb 20

    Gerry Gageldonk would be interesting to know on average how much it costs to treat a person in ED Canberra Health Services?

    Gerry Gageldonk Gerry Gageldonk 12:19 pm 08 Feb 20

    Julie Donda yes ..very interesting ! Why did they shut down the walkin clinic at woden hospital ??

    Melissa Hobbs Melissa Hobbs 9:29 pm 08 Feb 20

    Gerry Gageldonk because they are now located at Tuggeranong and Belconnen where the demand is

Jude Beck Jude Beck 8:58 pm 07 Feb 20

It’d help if they weren’t sitting around drinking coffee deciding who they see and won’t see!

    Mark Monterosso Mark Monterosso 9:43 pm 07 Feb 20

    What would help more is people not going to the ED to save paying a fee at their local GP.

    Jude Beck Jude Beck 9:46 pm 07 Feb 20

    Have done it for a while, I’m talking more about the doctors not the nurses, nurses are priceless, love them to bits!

    Jude Beck Jude Beck 9:48 pm 07 Feb 20

    Nurses rock, the Drs don’t!

    Alex Miller Alex Miller 5:15 am 08 Feb 20

    Jude Beck my impression of the ED docs is that they work bloody hard. From one nurse to another 😉

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 8:05 pm 07 Feb 20

“Greater than expected demand has seen Canberra Hospital blow its budget for 2019-20, with the government having to tip in an extra $60 million to maintain services, particularly for elective surgery and emergency.”

According to this piece by former Chief Minister Jon Stanhope, and former senior ACT Treasury officer Dr Khalid Ahmed, this is token, belated catch-up following the abandonment of several hundred millions in additional health funding which had been planned by Katy Gallagher – and which was cut after her move to the Senate.


Commenting on the abandoned plan for a full redevelopment of the Canberra Hospital site, Stanhope and Ahmed note that the Government’s proposed Surgical Procedures, Interventional Radiology and Emergency Centre (SPIRE) –

“has already been deferred twice and is now foreshadowed to be completed in 2024. It is planned to deliver only 148 beds, approximately one third of the number originally planned, and almost a decade late, by which time it is estimated an additional 400 beds will be required over the 2017-18 bed numbers based on the current growth estimates.

In short, if SPIRE was operational today it would be fully utilized and a further two similarly sized hospital bed supply projects would still need to be delivered by 2024 in order to meet currently estimated growth in demand for hospital beds.”

Frank Trapani Frank Trapani 6:50 pm 07 Feb 20

At least the local government is making sure that the current hospital services and staff levels are safe. That's a credit to our Chief Minister, Andrew Barr.✅

    Denise Smith Denise Smith 9:22 pm 07 Feb 20

    Frank Trapani I don't think so.

    Frank Trapani Frank Trapani 9:40 pm 07 Feb 20

    Denise Smith. Not another fake news I hope?

    Narelle Ford Narelle Ford 11:23 pm 07 Feb 20

    Frank Trapani not fake.

    Frank Trapani Frank Trapani 11:31 pm 07 Feb 20

    Narelle Ford. Thank you, for the confirmation. ✅😀

    Charlie McDonald Charlie McDonald 6:02 am 08 Feb 20

    Frank Trapani That hospital is a disgrace just like AndrewBarr, You obviously have had nothing to do with it

    Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 7:25 am 08 Feb 20

    Charlie McDonald the hospital has been there longer than David Barr. A small jurisdiction like the ACT doesn’t have endless supplies of revenue to spend on infrastructure so change will take time

    Beverlea Joce Beverlea Joce 9:44 am 08 Feb 20

    Jill Lyall Andrew Barr

    Julie Maynard Julie Maynard 10:38 am 08 Feb 20

    Rick Durden that old right wing pearler. You know they have seperate budgets right? They’ve also had to add extra services because people use it. Not ire why you have a problem with public transport but hey, keep up the great rhetoric!

    Frank Trapani Frank Trapani 10:54 am 08 Feb 20

    Julie Maynard. I don't make much use of public transport because, I live within walking distance from most of my everyday need but, Canberra, in comparison with other countries and all around Australia, we, are at the same level - to way better then the others.

    Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 11:03 pm 08 Feb 20

    Rick Durden which is full all day every day!

Lee McDowall Lee McDowall 6:40 pm 07 Feb 20

Well this is no surprise, can't understand how year after year this is reported with no change, sack the total ACT Government they are oxygen theives

Aldo Milin Aldo Milin 6:22 pm 07 Feb 20

Properly funded health care took a back seat to the light rail network thanks to the numpties in power...

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