Health targets still a challenge
National Health Performance Authority figures published late last year showed there was no possibility whatever that the ACT would qualify for a share of federal ''reward funding'' reserved for hospitals that met agreed emergency room response time targets. Confirmation of that came this week with figures released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare indicating that only 56 per cent of ACT emergency department patients were treated and admitted or discharged within four hours during 2012, some way shy of the 64 per cent target.
It was not all gloom, however. As a result of exceeding targets for assessing elective surgery patients in all three categories, the ACT will pick up an extra $680,000 in federal funding. The federal government has also agreed that the ACT can apply for the $800,000 that was set aside last year if it meets or exceeds its targets for this year.
The failure of every state and territory, bar Western Australia, to qualify for emergency department reward money last year indicates that rapid improvements are, by their nature, not easily accomplished. The fact that WA has, for some years, been trying to engineer quicker emergency department response times certainly supports the view that the targets were too ambitious. Ironically, however, WA was one of just two states (the other being Victoria) that failed to meet elective surgery waiting list targets.
What are the odds that the ACT will qualify for emergency department reward money this year? Not great, perhaps, when one consider the length of time it took WA hospitals to get their emergency departments in order. There is further cause of pessimism when one considers that the effects of last year's data tampering affair are still being felt at Canberra hospital. Indeed, the ease with which the emergency department information system could be accessed had a profound effect on the hospital's strategy for improvement. While new computer security measures should ensure there is no repetition of last year's incident, the hospital (and the ACT government) faces something of an uphill struggle. For that reason, all options need to be examined. Patients must be assessed and dealt with swiftly, of course, but equally, more thought needs to be given to keeping people with relatively minor ailments away from emergency rooms. The government could, for example, expedite its election promise to build new nurse-led walk-in centres in the Belconnen and Tuggeranong town centres.
Not so neighbourly
''Life at its most elevated'' was how ''The ApARTments'' complex at New Acton was marketed when it was being built, and doubtless people who later moved into the swanky complex believed that life there would indeed be exalted. With a rooftop garden, high sculpted ceilings, double-glazed windows and communal spaces ''rich with art'', there might even have been an expectation of gallery-like dignity and calm. Alas, some owner-occupiers have complained that the building's amenity is all too frequently disrupted by displays of ''loutish behaviour'', including bad language and vomiting on terraces. In addition, some people have been overcome by an urge to disport themselves on a large peacock sculpture in the foyer.
The problem is said to stem mainly from certain owners leasing their apartments for limited periods (sometimes as short as a weekend) to people with little apparent regard for the niceties of apartment living and even fewer manners. The body corporate has fined at least one owner for allowing short-term renters to contravene rules regarding noise and the playing of loud music, but aggrieved owner-occupiers seeking to restrict the way people can lease their apartments have had less luck. Under the Unit Titles (Management Act), owners can lease their units however they wish, whether it be for one night or two years.
People who have paid in the high six figures, or more, to move to an architect-designed apartment building might reasonably expect to be able to enjoy a serene and peaceful lifestyle. On the other hand, there is no accounting for the eagerness of some absentee owners to squeeze as much from their investment properties as they can. This might be a case of caveat emptor, perhaps, but many right-thinking people would argue that absentee landlords in apartment blocks have some duty of consideration to their putative owner-occupier neighbours.