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Tuesday, 19 March 1985
Page: 447

(Question No. 6)

Senator Macklin asked the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, upon notice, on 22 February 1985:

Are there long delays in the payment of practitioners, such as doctors and pharmacists, by the Department of Veterans' Affairs; if so:

(a) why are these delays occurring; and

(b) what efforts are being made to minimise these delays, in view of the hardship they cause.

Senator Gietzelt —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

In New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria there are delays in the payment of accounts to practitioners such as doctors and other health professionals.

The primary reasons are the substantial increase in the number of entitled veterans and the level of service required because of their increasing age. The Department of Veterans' Affairs has been unable to cope with this rapid growth in the short term, leading to delays in the processing of accounts.

Positive action is being taken to overcome the problem and the first stage of an automated system to replace manual processing which will reduce account turn around time to a more than acceptable level is scheduled for implementation in April 1985.

In the meantime, additional resources have been diverted from lower priority tasks to help reduce the accounts backlog.

My Department has not allowed payments to pharmacists to remain unpaid for long periods. Payments to pharmacists are effected under arrangements made with the Department of Health and the processing of accounts for payment under the repatriation pharmaceutical benefits scheme has not exceeded normal commercial standards-30 days-in any of the States.