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Tuesday, 26 February 1985
Page: 175


Senator BLACK —My question is directed to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. He will be aware of reports published in the Brisbane Courier-Mail concerning an inspection of the Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital by five Liberal Party politicians. Apart from the tying up of limited staff resources in the hospital and consequent disruption of services to the needy, will the Minister reply to the specific criticisms levelled at his Department by the five politicians? The criticisms were: Firstly, there is a severe shortage of funds to replace old equipment and buy new equipment; secondly, there are shortages of staff; thirdly, there is a deterioration in the standard of care; and, fourthly, there are delays in elective surgery.


Senator GIETZELT —It is true that during the recess some members of the Opposition visited the Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital in Brisbane, for what purpose I cannot quite comprehend. I draw the Senate's attention to the fact that the Department of Veterans' Affairs operates nine repatriation hospitals, the six principal ones being in each of the capital cities. I have been Minister for Veterans' Affairs for less than two years. If in fact there were the sorts of deficiencies suggested by the Opposition politicians those would be politicians reprimanding the previous Government for its failure to act upon many recommendations made in recent years following reports about the repatriation hospital system and its failure to allocate sufficient financial resources to ensure for each of our hospitals the standard it needs for the maintenance of effective treatment of veterans.

The facts are, of course, that in every repatriation hospital there are deficiencies of different magnitudes. Some hospitals require better operating theatres, some need to refurbish the wards and others require new equipment and technology. However, this Government's approach to the problem has been demonstrated by the amount of additional funds and resources that have been made available in each of the Budgets we have presented. We have dramatically increased the amount of funds for the repatriation hospitals. The Government has agreed in principle to provide sufficient resources, to the extent of $13m, in respect of the Greenslopes Hospital of which Senator Black spoke.

It is true that there are problems with elective surgery and other treatment requirements in some of our repatriation hospitals. The situation is particularly bad in Queensland where it would appear that there has been a breakdown or at least a deterioration in the State hospital system. That of course puts extra pressure on our hospital at Greenslopes. If patients cannot be properly provided for in the State hospital system, which is the responsibility of the Queensland Government, and because of the Government's policy of having 20 per cent of community patients in the repatriation hospital system, extra pressures are placed upon our repatriation hospitals. That has happened in respect of Greenslopes. Of course with elective surgery we are in the hands of members of the medical profession. If they have commitments in private hospitals, State hospitals and our repatriation hospitals, they determine the degree to which patients are treated. That matter is out of the hands of the Government.

However, Senator Black can be assured that I visited the Greenslopes Hospital several months ago and took steps to make sure that there was no cut in the staff requirements. I also reduced the number of community patients in Greenslopes from 20 per cent to 15 per cent in order to ease the pressure on the staff to enable them to provide the sorts of facilities and treatment necessary to fulfil our obligations to veterans. Therefore, any difficulties that exist there flow from the years of neglect of the previous Fraser Administration.