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Tuesday, 21 June 1994
Page: 1778

Senator LEES —My question is directed to the minister representing the minister who represents the Minister for Human Services and Health. I refer the minister to the current sale and the proposed closures of public hospitals in a number of states. Is the Commonwealth monitoring the sale and closure of our public hospitals in the various states and, if so, can the minister give us some idea of how many hospitals have actually been closed and how many are being put to tender? Is the government concerned about these closures? What action is the federal government taking to either prevent the closures or to ensure that the closures and sales do not in any way lead to inequities in access to hospital services, particularly in rural Australia? Finally, will the Commonwealth government now be contributing less money to those states that are closing down or selling off their public hospitals?

Senator COOK —I have just checked my briefing folder; I do not have a brief on this subject before me, so I cannot authoritatively answer the detailed elements of the honourable senator's question. I will put those detailed elements on notice and provide an answer as soon as possible—certainly this week. I can say that the Minister for Human Services and Health, Dr Lawrence, does have a very keen overview of what the changes are in the health system. She is, of course, taking cognisance of the efforts to sell off hospitals in the public and private health systems and she is concerned about the impact on the total health effort in Australia as a consequence. I will refer the detailed questions, which require specific answers, to Dr Lawrence and will provide Senator Lees with her reply.