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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 333


Senator PETER BAUME(10.30) —On 9 October 1986 Mr Ted Grace, the Australian Labor Party member for Fowler, launched a strong attack in another place on the Delany Hall nursing home which is situated in the electorate of Barton. In the course of that attack, Mr Grace accused the administrator of the nursing home, a Mr Moschella, of being, among other things, firstly, a `cheat', secondly, a person who had been described by an officer of the Department of Community Services as a `dill' and one of the `sleaziest and slyest nursing home operators in the business'; and, thirdly, he accused him of being an `idiot'. Fourthly, Mr Grace accused him of being a person who has `harassed and threatened elderly people to get more money out of them to line his own pockets'. Fifthly, he described Mr Moschella as `a crooked ghoul' who had threatened `to remove a sick man from his home . . . for not paying a bill which in fact had been paid'. Honourable senators may gather that Mr Grace did not have a great regard for Mr Moschella.

The trouble was that in that speech Mr Grace provided no evidence to support these serious allegations and this outrageous slander of Mr Moschella, and it is now necessary to put the record straight. The allegations were made on the basis of statements made to Mr Grace-and I imagine that he received them in good faith-by the wife of a resident in the nursing home. Fortunately, the facts have been brought to my attention by Mr Bob Gemmell, the Liberal Party candidate for the seat of Barton in which the Delany Hall nursing home is situated. The attack was made on 9 October. So far as one can tell, no action has been taken by Mr Gary Punch, the member for Barton, who has been contacted, to set the record straight or to try to answer what are groundless and baseless accusations against Mr Moschella and the Delany Hall nursing home. Mr Gemmell is a formidable campaigner. He is the same Mr Gemmell who came within 57 votes of unseating the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Unsworth, in the seat of Rockdale.

Let me deal with the allegations in turn, because they were serious and deserve to be answered one after the other. My refutation of these will expose the hollowness of Mr Grace's slander of Mr Moschella in October. Perhaps I should point out first that the Delany Hall nursing home is the only private facility in the southern suburbs of Sydney in my electorate which accepts wandering and demented persons. This is a very difficult task to undertake. It would be done by a nursing home only in line with a sense of commitment and mission. The Delany Hall nursing home has both commitment and a sense of mission. The home has always been accorded the greatest respect by the Department of Community Services and by the Department of Health as being a speciality unit for Alzheimer's disease, which honourable senators will know is a form of dementia. In specialising in this field the proprietor disadvantages himself financially because residents with Alzheimer's disease and with dementia can be extremely destructive.

The matter raised by Mr Grace relates to the residency of a Mr Joseph Dries at the Delany Hall nursing home. Mr Dries was admitted to Delany Hall on 26 March 1986. He had been transferred from a nursing home in the Blue Mountains after his family became distressed regarding his care. The transfer was fair enough; the family wanted Mr Dries to be taken to a new nursing home. Prior to his transfer, there had been problems between Mrs Dries, his wife, and the administrator of the Blue Mountains nursing home regarding the non-payment of fees. In the case of the Delany Hall fees-and fees are payable by the relatives of patients-Mrs Dries began to neglect her responsibilities to pay her husband's account some time around April/May.

Mr Grace made great play about a particular payment of $515.30. In fact, that was receipted in June-there is no question of that-but there were numerous other fees which accumulated and which the patient's wife had not paid. Far from being a poor and harassed elderly person, as Mr Grace claims, Mrs Dries had a substantial income; and she admitted this to the Department of Community Services. She used it on herself, her own maintenance, and was required to use some of it for the support of her husband. Her daughter had informed the Delany Hall nursing home that her mother was earning about $600 per fortnight from payments of board, from baby sitting fees and from two pensions, her own and that of her husband. So in all, she had about $600 a fortnight. I have with me a copy of the ledger sheet for Mr Dries's time in Delany Hall nursing home. I can see a number of receipted accounts, but I can see that throughout the period from June onwards up to the time Mr Grace made his attack-information which he could have obtained had he tried-there was a balance owing to the Delany Hall nursing home of always around $1,000, and sometimes going as high as $1,500. After Mr Grace made his complaint, officers of the Department of Community Services went and called on Mrs Dries. On 2 December they wrote her a short letter in which they set out the extent of her indebtedness. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the letter from the Department of Community Services, which I have not shown to Senator Walsh.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows-

COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY SERVICES

G.P.O. Box 4292, Sydney

N.S.W. 2001

Telephone:

Telex

Mrs Dries

3 Leigh Place

Ashcroft NSW 2168

Dear Madam

I refer to the visit to your home by two officer's of this Department on 18 November 1986, to check Mr Dries accounts and receipts for care and accommodation at Delaney Hall Nursing Home.

A thorough check of your accounts, and the nursing home records revealed that there were no discrepancies. The outstanding account at 18 November 1986 to 30 1986 November for Mr Dries accommodation is $1284.33.

Matron Wylie of Delaney Hall Nursing Home has been advised of our findings.

Yours faithfully

H. WOOD

Admissions, Inspections & Approvals

New South Wales Region


Senator PETER BAUME —The letter sets out that a $1,284.33 debt was owing. In fact, it is clear that Delany Hall was owed money at the time Mr Grace said that there was no money owing. It is owed money now. Money has been owed at all stages since the May-June period. It is apparent that Mrs Dries had access to money and that the nursing home had every right to ask that money owing for Mr Dries's residency in the home be paid and it had every right to let the relatives know that it was not being paid.

In fact, Mr Dries's daughter Sue, in a responsible way, is now attempting to pay off some of the money owed to Delany Hall herself. She herself is in a difficult financial situation but she is sending the occasional cheque for $100. On looking at a note she sent to the nursing home, I see that she acknowledges a balance owing of $1,000. Her note gives the lie to what Mr Grace was saying. Clearly, Delany Hall has not been harassing anyone but has merely been asking for what is rightfully its own. It has given very generous help to Mr Dries. Apart from some clothes his daughter bought for her dad at Christmas time, the nurses themselves have been buying him clothes and beer. Mr Grace is completely wrong in suggesting that accounts have been paid up to date and in suggesting that Mr Moschella is trying to rip off aged people to line his own pockets.

I am not blaming my friend Mr Grace. I suggest that he talk to his staff about bad staff work and about inadequate research that went on before he came to the Parliament and made outrageous suggestions against an innocent person who could not defend himself. Secondly, I would like to refute Mr Grace's comments, which he attributed to the Department of Community Services, that Mr Moschella was a dill, sleazy and sly. The Department has vigorously denied making any statement about Mr Moschella and requested of Mr Grace the name of the person who it is alleged made these statements. No name has been offered, and we cannot assume that such a claim was ever made.

Thirdly, I wish to refute the accusation that Mr Moschella was intending to throw Mr Dries out into the street. Those were Mr Grace's words-that he would be thrown out into the street. Despite the advice that Mr Moschella received from the Department of Community Services that Mr Dries should be discharged for non-payment of fees, throughout the entire time Mr Moschella insisted that Delany Hall would carry the debt and that under no circumstances would this elderly patient have his quality of care reduced or endangered or be thrown out. This is just one example of how Mr Moschella is guided in his decision-making by his strong commitment to the mission and purpose of Delany Hall in line with his own strong Roman Catholic faith.

Finally, I refer to Mr Grace's suggestion that Mr Moschella does not properly look after his patients and, in particular, that he ignores Mr Dries. Mr Grace alleges specifically that Mr Dries was `allowed to wander at will'. It is quite true that on one occasion he jumped over the fence and went straight to the Penshurst Hotel where the locals filled him up with ale, but they then brought him back to the nursing home after he had had a few beers. It is the policy of the nursing home not to tie the patients to chairs, even if they are demented or have Alzheimer's disease. It does not sedate them like zombies. Also, government policy does not allow the nursing home to lock its doors or gates. If one is not trying patients up or locking the doors, it is clear that one cannot prevent some of them from leaving from time to time. So Mr Grace's suggestion that Mr Dries was not being properly looked after clearly needs a better basis than the evidence that he has offered.

In conclusion, I wish to look at the result of this completely inaccurate, unfounded, unwarranted and unfair attack upon Delany Hall and Mr Moschella. Mr Grace did not bother to check the ledgers of Delany Hall before he launched his attack. I have checked them. Those ledgers would have told Mr Grace all he needed to know-that he was wrong, that the people who brought the story to him were wrong, that he was being given a line of nonsense and that he should not have brought it into the Parliament before he had checked it out. His only contact with the nursing home was through a Mr Mountford-perhaps a member of Mr Grace's staff-who contacted the home on the day the speech was made and in fact had an argument with the matron. She says that he actually called her a liar.

The result of this baseless attack has been to demoralise the nursing staff of Delany Hall. They are gentle and caring nurses who try to do their best. They are looking after an extremely difficult group of patients. These patients need care and the nurses are giving it to them. They have been smeared by this scatter-gun attack. I am told that these nurses clean up incontinent patients and that they work eight hours a day. They could earn more money as check-out counter people at Franklins, but they are never too busy to provide love and care to the Delany Hall residents. Members of this Parliament will know this because some of them have relatives being nursed in this nursing home. Some of them represent some of the areas around Delany Hall.

I believe that nothing short of an apology from Mr Grace to Mr Moschella and Delany Hall can set the record straight. I invite him to offer such an apology. I believe that he acted on information he was given and that it was wrong information. The time is now right for him to apologise and if he will not do so I invite the Minister for Community Services (Mr Hurford) to set the record straight on behalf of the Government and make clear to this nursing home that there was a debt in terms of the document which I have incorporated in Hansard and that most of the other claims made by Mr Grace were groundless, baseless and without any evidence.