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Thursday, 20 November 1986
Page: 2622


Senator GRIMES (Minister for Community Services)(4.01) —The latest development at Melville is that we are negotiating with the State Government. There have been many offers, from all sorts of people, to purchase Melville for all sorts of purposes. The Department of Health there is doing a feasibility study on taking over the whole site. We will be discussing retaining the responsibilities for some of the recurrent costs there; for instance, costs for head injuries, if the State takes over the management and conduct of the facility.

In Victoria, the Motor Accident Board has announced its intention to purchase Glen Waverley. Sixty per cent of the head injury cases there are from car accidents. We have retained a head injury unit in Melbourne.


Senator Peter Baume —They are referred to as motor car crashes.


Senator GRIMES —I am sorry about that. I have spoken about Douglas Parker and what we intend to do there. In New South Wales I think the most sensible thing would be for Queen Elizabeth II to go to the Prince Alfred Hospital. I am sure Senator Peter Baume would agree. I cannot imagine anyone else wanting to buy it-in the middle of that place. The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital is looking at it and the Department of Health is looking at it. They certainly would like the facilities which are much better than the facilities they have got.


Senator Peter Baume —Would they run it as a rehabilitation training centre?


Senator GRIMES —They have a rehabilitation unit, the members of which-the medical profession particularly-are very keen to get decent conditions. I cannot answer for them, although I do know from individual discussions that what they visualise would be the establishment of a specialised and highly skilful rehabilitation centre there. That is sensible, in conjunction with a hospital of that type.

I have had discussions with Dr Yeo concerning the future of spinal injury people. As Senator Peter Baume would know, Dr Yeo is also interested in the rehabilitation of severely injured people. At the moment we are looking at building up the facilities at Coorabell for the residential treatment of those individuals. I do not know how far down the track we are with that but we are getting a fair way.

At Taringa in Queensland we are retaining specialist facilities where they are necessary. We are setting up a large regional specialist unit on the Gold Coast. Sessional services and the skills of sessional people in sessional services will be purchased where necessary. The Queensland Government is pretty tardy, as it often is. I suppose it is aggravated by the fact that it has just had an election. It has yet to answer our offer about planning together. Officer level discussions have taken place and we want to look at joint planning facilities with the compensation board there which is very interested in rehabilitation, for obvious reasons.

We are not selling the Townsville facility. I have had suggestions from local members in the area about what we may do with the residences we have there which we do not fully use or need for our own use. I will be discussing with them soon plans we have there. The Townsville facility will be retained, as I have said, and I am looking at having the north Queensland regional office of my Department there as well. There is no plan to sell the Northern Territory facility at all. So the plans vary a bit from place to place. What will result, after careful co-operation with the States and others, is a more rational approach to the rehabilitation service. One of the problems was, as I said earlier, that the service was established in the post-war years in an absolute vacuum. The large facilities were purchased and built in those post-war years and we now find them in inappropriate places, and frequently performing inappropriate functions.

The changes we have made over the years have been gradual. Of course there will be some problems with the redeployment of staff in some places. There have been fewer problems than I thought there would be. We will have 50 new regional units this year, and 97 new regional units, all up, by 1988. I think the progress has been good. The access to services will be improved. The number of people being attended to will be improved. Therefore, I urge Senator Peter Baume to accept the assurances that we have given, to accept the good faith we have shown in the changes we have made, and to allow us to proceed in the orderly way that I believe it is sensible we should.