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Thursday, 28 March 1985
Page: 963

Senator SIBRAA —The Minister for Veterans' Affairs would be aware of the current dispute between specialists in public hospitals and the New South Wales Government. Is the dispute causing any disruption to services in the Repatriation General Hospital at Concord? Have the costs of the Department of Veterans' Affairs increased because of this dispute?

Senator GIETZELT —The Repatriation Hospital at Concord is very heavily taxed because it performs a function not only for repatriation beneficiaries but also for a large number of community patients from that region in accordance with the overall policy which has continued for many years. We are all aware that patients have been disadvantaged by the medical specialists' dispute in New South Wales. Obviously, when there are extra pressures on the State public hospital system, patients avail themselves of the opportunity to go into the repatriation hospital system. They have done just that.

On the other side of the coin, many hundreds of thousands of veterans eligible for treatment of their ailments and disabilities who cannot be accommodated in the repatriation system are normally treated as private patients in the State public system. The doctors' dispute means that they are not able to be treated in the State hospital system. In each of the respective States, in this case New South Wales, the Deputy Commissioner has the authority to admit a select number of eligible beneficiaries into private hospitals because of their state of health. We are dealing with aged persons and persons with many disabilities. These decisions are based on departmental advice that early treatment is absolutely essential and necessary. In the three months of this year, 152 such operations have taken place in the private hospital system at a cost of $211,000. This means that the Department has paid something in excess of $112,000 more than it would have paid if those patients had been able to be accommodated in the State hospital system. Not only are patients paying a heavy price for the dispute that is taking place between medical specialists and the New South Wales Government, the taxpayer is also.