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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 4043

Senator MURPHY(6.19 p.m.) —Like Senator Hogg, I was a bit curious about this report of the nursing homes standards review panels. In Tasmania there have not been any reviews, which I find rather interesting. So far as nursing homes are concerned, I think it is very true that we ought to be sure that nursing homes meet the standards. Cadorna House, a nursing home in Launceston, Tasmania, does not meet the standards, according to a report prepared by the Department of Health and Family Services, yet it was somehow granted funding by the government.

This is a somewhat lacklustre report from the minister. We might have a review panel but they do not seem to do much. I was told by the department that, under the National Health Act 1953, section 45(e), I think—it is referred to in the report—they can impose sanctions for nursing homes that do not meet the standards. Why is it that a nursing home in Launceston can be granted funding by the government when it has not met the standards? This is a concern for a lot of other nursing homes that were built and had to meet the standards that were applied.

I would be interested to hear from the government and the minister about what they intend to do about that. If we are going to proceed to make further changes to nursing care, are there going to be requirements to adhere to standards—are there going to be standards—and are these review panels going to ensure that they are maintained and met?

What would appear to be a supercilious, goofy minister has sent us a report that really does not appear to hold too much water. Quite frankly, the mere fact that this report has little content and really does not tell you much, even for those states where reviews were done, leaves you wondering what the government's intention is.

It must be a real concern for people who will be going into nursing homes. I know in the case of Cadorna House that there is significant concern with some of the residents. The fact is it does not meet the standard, because room sizes are wrong and other facilities clearly do not meet the standard. It was a rather damning report from the department of health about this particular nursing home—and the government proceeded to fund it!

When we were in government, we did not offer them any money, because they did not meet the standards. We actually instituted a process whereby there was an analysis done on what was required at that nursing home. I think half a million dollars was supposed to have been spent to bring it up to scratch. As I said, the minister ought to be questioned very strongly about why she has not ensured that this home, and probably a few others, meets the standards. One home in Hobart, I think, was closed because it did not meet the standards. But in Launceston a privately owned one received government funding, as I said, even though the report said that it simply does not meet the standard. There have been a number of people who have stayed in that home who have serious concerns with regard to the management and the way in which they conduct themselves towards the people who are staying in the home.

I urge the government to seriously consider the process with the review panel. It is no reflection on the people that are on the panels. They clearly are endeavouring to do their job, I think. But I think it is up to the government, at the end of the day, to take some action and ensure that nursing homes do meet standards and that they are maintained over time to ensure that the interests of the people using them are protected.

Question resolved in the affirmative.