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Friday, 19 May 1939

Mr BLAIN (Northern Territory) . - I congratulate the Government upon having at long last recognized the need for providing an up-to-date hospital at Darwin, but I am doubtful whether the proposed accommodation will be sufficient. I have no wish to decry the work of the Public Works Committee; it is doing a most valuable work, and I hope that the range of its activities will be extended. It is stated on page 5 of the report of the committee that evidence was received from Dr. H. H. Schlink, chairman of the board of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, to the effect that 6.5 beds for each 1,000 of population was recognized, both in Australia and in the United States of America, as being sufficient. Whilst that figure may be all right for" the southern parts of Australia, it should not be taken as the standard for Darwin, where conditions are unique. In the southern cities a great many people, when they fall sick, are attended in their own homes by their own medical practitioners, or they go into private hospitals. In Darwin, however, every person who becomes ill must go to the public hospital.

Mr Nairn - We allowed practically double the number of beds that would be required according to Dr. Schlink's formula.

Mr BLAIN - I am not unmindful of that. The committee stated in its report that, after mature consideration, it was satisfied that 60 beds would be sufficient. Then it went on to point out how many patients could be accommodated on the verandahs. That sort of accommodation is out of date. It went out with red shirts and cabbage-tree hats.

Mr Anthony - What is the population of Darwin?

Mr BLAIN - There are about 2,000 . in the city itself, but the total population, including that of the adjacent suburb, is over 3,000. My complaint is that the committee was guided by evi-' dence which is not applicable to Darwin. I do not know what the plans of the Commandant, Colonel Robertson, are, but if there were an outbreak of hostilities in the North, the sick and wounded would have to be sheltered under the coolibah trees, because there would be no accommodation elsewhere. In my opinion the hospital should be large enough to accommodate at least 100 beds.

Sir Frederick Stewart - Provision is made for enlarging the hospital.

Mr BLAIN - Dr. Schlinkshould have gone to Darwin to investigate conditions for himself. There are in the Darwin district many old pensioners who will never come south, and who, when they fall sick, must be attended in the public hospital, thus further taxing the available accommodation.

Recently I wrote a very long letter to the Minister for the Interior, and sent copies to the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence, and the Administrator of the Northern Territory, protesting against wasteful expenditure on works and roads in the Territory, by letting contracts to men with very little equipment, instead of inducing big contractors with up-to-date plant to come in and assist them in doing their work expeditiously. Even though the work comprises only the building of culverts or small bridges, a certain amount of engineering skill is necessary. Every wet season culverts and bridges are washed away and have to be renewed, and much of this loss could be avoided if the work were clone properly in the first place.

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