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Tuesday, 31 March 1987
Page: 1757

Mr MARTIN —My question is addressed to the Minister for Community Services. Are there any adverse effects for patients of nursing homes in the preferred package of new funding arrangements announced by the Minister today?

Mr HURFORD —No, the preferred package of funding and other new arrangements I have announced today for discussion with the industry, the States and, indeed, all interested parties does not adversely affect patients. On the contrary, the package will, as I will show in a moment, benefit many patients. The patient's contribution to the total fee charged by nursing homes continues to be controlled by the Government. No patient will be required to pay more under this package than he or she is paying at present. The government benefit which is part of the nursing home fee will be altered gently over time. No longer will that government benefit be open-ended; no longer will it be on a cost plus basis, as it has been hitherto for one class of nursing home; and no longer will it be deficit funded as it has been hitherto for another class of nursing home.

I will take the opportunity briefly to tell the House that our government benefit is being calculated with reference to two elements. One element relates to the cost of nursing and personal care staffing. The more intense staffing there is, the more reimbursement there will be from the Government, as hitherto. Until standards have been negotiated with the States, each nursing home will be reimbursed this coming year as it has been in the past on its own individual assessment by my Department. So there will be no change to that element. The other element relates to the other administrative costs, the infrastructure costs. In that package for discussion we have set a figure of $27.65 per resident day. That figure is equal to or greater than the infrastructure costs of 65 per cent of all nursing homes. With the other 35 per cent the phase-in or adjustment will be gentle. Only a handful of homes will get less in money terms in this coming financial year than they are receiving in this financial year. Among the other 65 per cent of homes which will get more in the coming financial year, the vast majority will be able to set about improving their standards of care. In summarising, the result of this package--

Mr Reith —I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This is the second occasion during Question Time today that we have had a Minister stand up and read from prepared notes. In this particular example, the information was supplied to members this morning. This is an abuse of Question Time.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member does not have a point of order.

Mr HURFORD —Even if the honourable member for Flinders is not interested in this subject, there are many members who are interested in the subject. I have already said in this short answer--

Mr Reith —On a point of order, Madam Speaker: If he would read my correspondence, he would know of my interest.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member did not even have the call.

Mr HURFORD —I have already said in this short answer that I am summarising and I want to summarise the package as follows. Firstly, there will be greater opportunities for efficiency and flexibility on the part of proprietors and managers of nursing homes; secondly, less public--

Mr Sinclair —On a point of order, Madam Speaker: The traditional practice of this place has been that when policy announcements are to be made, they should not be made by way of answers to questions without notice. This is demonstrably a policy statement. I suggest to you that the Minister is out of order and should be making the announcement he is now making by way of a ministerial statement.

Madam SPEAKER —The question was in order and the answer is in order.

Mr HURFORD —The second way of summarising this package is to say that there will be less public servant involvement in the books of individual homes. Last, but not least, there will be far more concentration on the standard of care for the many thousands of people who are in nursing homes. If the Opposition is not interested in a caring society, certainly we in the Government are.

Mr Downer —Madam Speaker, I raise a point of order about relevance. What the Minister is doing, in his own words, is summarising the package. The question related to whether there would be any negative effects from this package. I would humbly submit that if answers are not to be relevant to the questions, Question Time will be reduced to a farce.

Madam SPEAKER —The Chair found the Minister in order.

Mr HURFORD —I am happy to explain to the honourable member for Mayo, because it is necessary to do so in single syllable words, for his edification, that what I have had to say so far goes to this: There are no adverse effects for patients in this package. That was the question asked by the honourable member for Macarthur, the question I am happy to answer. In summary, there are only benefits in the standard of care for many of the patients of nursing homes.