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Thursday, 19 June 2003
Page: 17054

Ms ELLIS (3:01 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Ageing. Is the minister aware that there is a national shortage of 10,388 nursing home beds, resulting in thousands of elderly people waiting desperately for a nursing home bed, many of whom currently occupy hospital beds? Can the minister confirm to the House that the government allocates nursing home beds according to a planning formula that has not been revised since 1995? Given the current crisis reported widely in the press today, which estimates that up to 2,000 elderly people are waiting in hospital beds for a nursing home bed, does the minister agree that this ratio is clearly failing to meet the growing demand for nursing home beds? What is the government doing to ensure that elderly people have access to a nursing home bed?

Mr ANDREWS (Minister for Ageing) —I am delighted to have a question from the member for Canberra. She has shown so much interest in aged care that I think this is her maiden question to me about aged care since coming to the job!

The SPEAKER —The minister will come to the question.

Mr ANDREWS —I can tell the member for Canberra and the House that an independent analysis of the aged care situation and bed shortages by the Auditor-General showed that, when we came to government, there was a 10,000 bed shortage left by the Labor Party. After 13 years in government, having established some benchmarks in 1986, the Labor Party left us a 10,000 aged care bed shortage. Not only are we making up for that shortage; we are putting extra beds in place. As I said earlier, in answer to the previous question, 52,700 extra beds have been allocated in the last five years for aged care in Australia. We are on target to reach 200,000 aged care places by 2006. We have increased the number of community aged care packages. Remembering that people aspire to stay in their own homes and their own community as long as possible, we have increased the number of community aged care places from just over 2,000 when we came to government to over 28,000 today. We are on target to increase that to 34,000.

In last year's budget we put an extra half a billion dollars into aged care over four years. In the meantime, we are conducting a pricing inquiry into the continued sustainability and viability of aged care in Australia. This government has a proud record so far as aged care is concerned. If the member for Canberra would like to exert some influence on some of her state colleagues, perhaps she could take up with the Victorian aged care minister why, having been offered $6.6 million in funding for a transitional care place, he is still refusing to take up the offer. That offer has been on the table for almost 12 months now. It would have provided 90 beds and enabled up to 470 people to be moved out of public hospitals in Victoria.

Mr ANDREWS —Go and talk to your colleague in Victoria. There are 470 people each year in public hospitals in Victoria who could move into transitional and rehabilitation care if the Victorian government got its planning decisions together to enable this to go forth.

The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Canberra!

Mr ANDREWS —The Commonwealth money is sitting there on the table waiting. Perhaps at the same time you could take up with the South Australian aged care minister why they are not prepared to match the growth in HACC funding, thereby denying South Australians some $9 million worth of aged care services over three years. If you want to make a complaint, go and make it to your state colleagues.

The SPEAKER —I remind the minister that, convenient as it is for me to take up issues with South Australian ministers, his remarks should be addressed through the chair.