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Thursday, 1 September 1994
Page: 790

Senator PATTERSON —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Human Services and Health. Could the minister please explain why the government is so unwilling to fund adequately dementia-specific aged care residential facilities.

Senator Woods —Difficult one, Rosemary.

Senator CROWLEY —Yes, it is. With regard to dementia-specific aged care facilities, the detail of what Senator Patterson is referring to is, like a lot of the opposition's questions, not easily understood. If Senator Patterson wants me to talk about what this government's commitment to mental health funding is, I am very happy to do that. As the honourable senator knows, in the last budget we dramatically increased the funding for mental health services. There are two ways in which that funding will be provided. First of all, funding will be directed to community services, particularly as more and more people are being encouraged and supported to live in the community. Secondly, assistance will be given to assist removing people with mental health problems, including dementia, from hospital services.

  There is no evidence at all that I know of that we are refusing to fund dementia-specific services. If Senator Patterson has any evidence of this, I would be very pleased if she could pass it to me so that I can have it examined. This government is committed to assisting and funding the care of people with dementia. As I said, it is part of the increased funding flowing from the last budget, and there is no way we are resiling from that.

Senator PATTERSON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Strathdon Lodge in Victoria—a dementia-specific unit—has just closed down. Every dementia-specific unit in Australia is currently under threat of closure, and this government has failed to address the issue of specifically funding dementia-specific units. Why?

Senator CROWLEY —As I said, I welcome from Senator Patterson any specific examples of information such as the one she has just given. I will certainly make inquiries and find out for Senator Patterson. The commitment by this government to assist people with dementia problems is not only continuing, but has been increased and extended to include people with dementia in other facilities. I will certainly take that question, and particularly the example, and see whether there is anything I can provide.