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Friday, 22 February 1985
Page: 69


Senator BJELKE-PETERSEN(12.10) —As a member of the Senate Select Committee on Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes and one of the senators who signed a dissenting report, I want to say a few words today about this report. I am sure the Senate will find that over the years in which the Committee has conducted its inquiry we have done plenty of work. I am pleased to have been a member of the Committee. I thank Senator Shirley Walters who was the first Chairman of the Committee for the work that she did while she was Chairman and, of course, Senator Giles for the work that she has done during the past few years. I would say that there will be another report in regard to private hospitals, which will probably be just as voluminous as this report on private nursing homes. So there will be plenty for people to read.

In regard to the dissenting report, I want to speak about the number of nursing home beds. I sometimes think that we fail to take into consideration the aging population in Australia. That is very obvious when one travels around. Recently I had the opportunity to visit Sinnamon Retirement Village in Brisbane, which is a very big place. It is not exactly a nursing home; I suppose it is really a hostel care facility. There are many elderly people in the Retirement Village. There were many people aged over 80 or 90 in the hostel section who have not been placed in the nursing home section. A large number of people in our population these days are living longer. I feel that it is very important and necessary that enough provision should be made for nursing home care.

I know that the Government is putting forward extra money for domiciliary care and that, of course, is very worth while. In fact, I wonder whether anybody would want to go into a nursing home unless one had to. Most people, especially women, as they get older-perhaps not so much men, who do not seem to be able to look after themselves as well as women-want to stay in their own homes. People like to stay in their own homes. I think that people want to go into a nursing home only when it is necessary. I think it is one's privilege to be able to decide what type of nursing home one goes into. The report talks about private nursing homes. There are deficit funded nursing homes as well. But I found that a great proportion of the nursing homes that I inspected were excellently run. Admittedly, we see some photographs-some are contained in the report-of some cases in which the care was not as good as it should have been. Perhaps the cost to the patients was not as much as they would have to pay in the higher standard homes. Nevertheless, I feel that the vast majority of the homes that we inspected were very well run. I pay tribute to the people who run the homes and who give people who need nursing home care the opportunity of being looked after.

Of course, in my opinion tender loving care is as important as the nursing care. I suppose many people who reach the stage of being placed in a nursing home do not realise where they are. I feel that the loving care of the nurses is very important. I am quite sure that if families are not satisfied with the care that their parents are getting in a nursing home they will take some action to try to find a home in which the quality of care is better. One of my colleagues in the Senate told me about such a case a little while ago. I certainly do not think that the Government's proposal to reduce the number of nursing home beds is a very good idea.

I have talked about the care of the patients. With regard to the ownership of nursing homes, I cannot see any reason why doctors should not be able to own nursing homes and why, if they want to, they cannot send their patients to those homes. I cannot quite understand the thinking in that regard. My attitude is this: Who will provide the finance for nursing homes? I am sure that in many cases the doctors would not find the nursing homes to be financially beneficial. That is another reason why we put in a dissenting report about the ownership of nursing homes. These are some of the matters that we felt very strongly about and which we wanted to bring before the Senate.

I want to make my views known about these matters to explain why I signed the dissenting reports. I thank the staff who worked on the report. They have had a very big job. Their job, of course, is not yet complete because we must still bring forward the report on the remaining section of the inquiry. The care of the elderly is a very important subject in many ways. I am pleased to have been associated with the Committee which has done so much work on this section of the inquiry.