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Friday, 19 May 1939

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) .- There is a good deal in the suggestion that this matter should be deferred for a time, in order that members who have not already studied the report of the Public Works Committee may be given an opportunity to do so.

Sir Frederick Stewart - The report was laid on the table of the Honse six months ago.

Mr ANTHONY - The report appears to contain a number of inconsistencies, which I hope the Minister will be able to explain. For instance, in paragraph 4, which is headed " Reasons for the proposal ".I read -

(d)   With a daily average of 40 in-patients, the hospital is overcrowded, and there is no margin to deal with an epidemic, prevalence of disease, or an influx of population.

In paragraph 15, the daily average of patients in 1937 is set down at 31.

Mr Frost - If the honorable member will read the whole of the report, he will see that there is no inconsistency.

Mr ANTHONY - I have endeavoured to reconcile the two sets of figures, but have been unable to do so. I have had some experience of hospital administration, as the result of which I should say that, if the daily average at the present time is 40 in-patients, the provision of 60 beds is only about sufficient to meet present needs, and does not allow for expansion of the population.

Mr Blain - The honorable member is right.

Mr Lane - There will be additional provision for out-patients.

Mr ANTHONY - It is possible that the saving of about £60,000 will be made at the expense of efficiency, in which event there would, in the long run, he no saving at all. I agree with the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) that the report calls for a good deal of explanation. In paragraph 22 the report states - . On details being obtained, the original estimate of £120,000 was reduced to £101,760. . . .

That reduction calls for some explanation. Where does the responsibility lie? According to paragraph 1 of the report, before plans were formulated the superintending architect visited Darwin, Java and Singapore, in order that a building on modern lines, to conform to the principles of tropical architecture, could be designed. Apparently, there was a good deal of investigation by the architect responsible for the original design. Much greater facilities were afforded to him to investigate the requirements of a hospital for a tropical climate than were provided for the committee. We, therefore, have, on the one hand, the proposal of the superintending architect for a hospital to contain 3 32 beds, and, on the other hand, the recommendation of the Public Works Committee that that number of beds be reduced by 50 per cent.

Sir Frederick Stewart - Does the honorable member suggest that the committee should have been sent on a grand tour?

Mr ANTHONY - No; but I should like to know the qualifications of its members which justified them in altering so drastically the recommendation of the superintending architect.

Mr Frost - The recommendation was based on the evidence given to the committee at Darwin.

Mr Lane - What would be the position if the committee were unable properly to assess that evidence?

Mr ANTHONY - Have any of the members of the committee qualifications sup'erior to those of the officer who was entrusted with the job in the first place?

Mr Frost - Who was he?

Mr ANTHONY - I do not know; but if the officer entrusted with the task fell so far short of accomplishing it satisfactorily that he recommended a building to cost double what waa necessary, an investigation into his fitness for his job is called for. Either he or the Public Works Committee is wrong; or it may be that a proper balance will be found somewhere between the two recommendations. Before I can accept the committee's recommendation, I desire an explanation of the inconsistencies to which I have referred. I may perhaps have overlooked something iii my somewhat hasty scanning of the report, but I have set out the position as it appears to me. I also desire to know why the Works Department supplied an estimate of £120,000 and then, when details were called for. reduced the estimate to £101,760, and whether the proposed expenditure of £6:7,000 includes provision for the various services covered by the original report of the superintending architect. He recommended a hospital to contain four ward blocks and a children's ward. Does the plan approved by the committee provide for a children's ward? Is the elimination of that ward responsible for some of the saving? From my hospital experience, I say that a children's ward is a most important part of a hospital. The superintending architect also recommended the provision of two isolation blocks. Are they being provided in the amended scheme?

Mr Frost - Yes.

Mr ANTHONY - The officer responsible for the original design also provided for an administrative block, an X-ray block, an operating theatre, quarters for medical officers, matron, sisters and nurses, a kitchen block, ambulance station, laundry, garages and services. Are they to be provided in the amended scheme ?

Mr Frost - Yes, all of them.

Mr ANTHONY - It does not appear to me that all of them are to be provided.

Sir Frederick Stewart - The information is given on page 6 of the committee's report.

Mr ANTHONY - I have looked at the information there, but before I am prepared to agree to the motion, I, and I believe, other members also, desire further time to study the report, and to hear the Minister's explanation.

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