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Thursday, 29 March 2001
Page: 23343


Senator CROSSIN (2:27 PM) —My question is to Senator Vanstone, representing the Minister for Aged Care. Can the minister confirm that the Howard government recently allocated 50 aged care beds to the Moran Health Care group in Darwin, which represented 75 per cent of all aged care beds allocated to the Northern Territory in 2000? Is the minister aware of recent comments by Mr Shane Moran that the Moran group will be handing all of these places back to the federal government because they do not consider them viable under the current arrangements? Doesn't this follow the government allocating the entire aged care bed allocation for the Northern Territory in 1999 to the Moran group, beds which are yet to be put in place?


Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women) —Apparently the Moran Health Care group has suggested that it may return the Darwin aged care residential places allocated in the 2000 round, as it was not successful in its application for a capital grant. In the 2000 aged care approvals round, 65 grants totalling $29.5 million were allocated under the residential care capital grant program. That was in addition to $8.9 million allocated as capital grants for restructuring. Moran's application was one of 272 applications for capital funding received, and requested a contribution of 50 per cent of the estimated costs of the project, $4 million, to build a 50-bed home. Residential care capital grants are allocated through a competitive process and, given the limited funding available, funding is directed to the organisations with the least capacity to self-fund their projects. The application did not demonstrate a lack of capacity to fund the building of the service.

Financial modelling undertaken within the Department of Health and Aged Care and for the two-year review of aged care reforms shows that sufficient funds are being generated by the current arrangements to meet the industry's overall capital requirements. It is acknowledged that services operating in rural and remote areas are disadvantaged relative to the metropolitan services in terms of their access to funds for capital works and their relatively greater operating costs. The government recognises that and has allocated $10 million a year and a further $25.6 million over the 2001-02 period for capital assistance targeted at rural services and other special needs groups. That is in addition to the $28.2 million the government has provided for restructuring assistance for the elderly. Mrs Bishop is also considering alternative options for care delivery in remote areas, which may address related capital and funding issues. Senator Crossin, I know that does not answer everything that you asked but, such as it does not answer anything that you asked, I will refer those other matters to Mrs Bishop and ask her to respond.


Senator CROSSIN —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister Vanstone, how long will Northern Territorians have to wait for the new aged care beds that were allocated in 1999 and 2000? Given the current shortage of beds in the Territory, will the government commit immediately to reallocating any beds that are returned? What action has the Minister for Aged Care taken to get these badly needed beds in place instead of seeing frail, aged persons in the Northern Territory being sent interstate to find a nursing home?


Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women) —I am sure Mrs Bishop is doing everything she can to resolve this matter as quickly as she can.


Senator Chris Evans —She's the one who told him to say they're willing to wait!


Senator VANSTONE —I will ask Mrs Bishop to give some indication of what she sees as the appropriate time frame. I take the opportunity to note Senator Evans's interjection and to add—because this is of benefit to Northern Territorians as well—that the time to take up a place after an assessment has now shifted from 90 days to 12 months. That, of course, means that people do get an assessment and they do take their time to make a choice.