If your only source of information about the ACT was the 12 press releases the Stanhope Government sent out yesterday afternoon in response to the Productivity Commission’s 2010 Report on Government Services, you would think we lived in Pleasantville.
Better access to surgery, emergency departments! Strong results for ACT policing! More public hospital beds and the highest immunisation rates in the country! Education report shows highest participation rates! Emergency services performing well! More aged care supported to stay at home! ACT boasts high placement rates!
Then the topically awkward:
ACT imprisonment rates low! Court clearances above national average!
And my personal favourite:
ACT overcrowding lowest in nation!
Yes, all that green stuff between the suburbs appears to be doing a fine job, statistically speaking.
But if you consumed news media this morning the opposite would be true, with The Canberra Times and the ABC highlighting expensive childcare, expensive prisoners, expensive rent and slow ambos, long elective surgery waits and what amounts to inaccessible healthcare.
Taking a look at the headlines from other states on the same report provides some interesting comparisons. Childcare in NSW is cheaper, but the Sydney Morning Herald says it has “failed on hygiene and safety”, while Melbourne’s Herald Sun calls Victorian childcare “filthy and dangerous”.
And while the ABC decries public health access in the ACT, the territory didn’t get the rather frightening privilege of being “the worst for public hospital mishaps”, that blue ribbon goes to NSW.
Healthcare has really stolen the show this year for the ACT Government. When questioned about having an average 72 day wait time for elective surgery, Chief Minister Jon Stanhope today pointed to the Calvary hospital deal, saying:
Efficiency is at the heart of the commitment we’ve made to infrastructure upgrade, the rebuilding of the entire Canberra hospital precinct and our hopes to rebuild that at Calvary Hospital, is the need for greater efficiency and we see that in relation to e-health, we see that in relation to configuration, new theatres and of the entire precinct. Our hope through that investment is an expectation we will over that period catch up to national averages in relation to things like elective surgery and waiting times in accident and emergency.
But then the Chief Minister also said that waiting periods had remained relatively stagnant throughout his 12 years in the ACT Legislative Assembly and the wait time had decreased to 63 from when the data for the report was collated. Opposition Leader Zed Seseija immediately called Stanhope out, saying the median ACT wait time for elective surgery 2000 was 39 days.
On that note, as always, it pays to look to our Tasmanian brothers, 10.1% of whom, like 10.3% of us here in the nation’s capital, experience a wait time of over 12 months for elective surgery. Three times the national average? We are not alone.