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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 4043

Senator HOGG(6.14 p.m.) —This report of the nursing homes standards review panels is one of those small reports which one might superciliously look over and throw out the door. But I am surprised that the report is as thin as it is. It refers to the standards review panel process being an important element in maintaining the quality of life and care for nursing home residents. Yet, when one looks at the report, one sees it is fairly thin. It is only in the Queensland report that there is any report about the panel recommending that three of the five nursing homes reviewed be declared as not satisfying Commonwealth standards and that financial sanctions be imposed. Further, in that same report, they recommended that two other nursing homes be reviewed during the 1995-96 period.

The only other report of any real substance was one from Western Australia, which said:

I have found the experience of conducting a review an interesting one. The time constraints are difficult to adhere to, partly because there is little lead-in time in time from the date of request for review by the proprietor and partly because the members of the panel are all very busy people.

I find it most curious indeed that this is the sort of thing that would creep into this report. I am not doubting their goodwill and good intentions—

Senator Bolkus —Lacks lustre.

Senator HOGG —It does lack lustre. I really do believe that the executive director here is not being unkind in the remarks that are being made. When you turn to the rest of the report, you will see that there were no referrals in Tasmania, no referrals in the Australian Capital Territory, and no referrals in the Northern Territory.

Senator Murphy —We haven't got many nursing homes down there because they're closing them all.

Senator HOGG —That may provide a fairly good report on the state of health of the nursing homes in those states.

Senator Murphy —It doesn't.

Senator HOGG —But I do not believe it does. I think that the silence in this might be one of the hidden things that needs to be looked into. If one looks at the reason for reviewing these nursing homes and the state of these nursing homes, one will see that it arose out of a number of reports in the 1980s about the history of the industry—it saw the exploitation and the abuse of residents. Of course, this is an attempt to ensure that reasonable standards are maintained in nursing homes. I think it is eminently a fair and reasonable thing for those who are in aged care to think that that would happen.

The report seems to me to be light on, but that may be the nature of the report itself. I hope I am not doing those who are members of the panels in the various states—I note that providers, consumers and union representatives are on each of the panels in each of the states—a disservice. But it seems to me that, in an industry as large as the nursing home industry and the aged care industry, one would see a few more referrals on each of the states. I believe that this report is probably more notable for its absences than for what it reports.