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Friday, 19 May 1939

Mr MAHONEY (Denison) .- A fairly large sum is proposed to be expended on the new hospital at Darwin. I should have thought that for £67,000 a brick building could be erected. I have had a good deal of experience of hospitals in other parts of Australia, and it seems to me that this expenditure is too great for the amount of accommodation that will be provided for patients. I advise the Government to follow the very good example in hospital construction that has been set by the Labour Government of Tasmania. We have some of the finest hospitals in the world there. I direct particular attention to the details of the proposed expenditure. An amount of £3,860 is allocated for nurses' quarters and a further sum of £4,530 is provided for matrons' and sisters' quarters. That seems to me to be out of proportion. Are there more sisters than nurses at the Darwin Hospital ? If so, it is an unusual circumstance.

Sir Frederick Stewart - Under the definitions in force at Darwin there are more sisters than nurses.

Mr MAHONEY - That is interesting. I should like some information about the allocation of £1,250 for "H.O. Nurses quarters ". Are these intended for halfcaste nurses? If so, are those nurses required to attend aboriginal patients? That would seem to me to be an improper procedure. In all the big public hospitals of our capital cities the nurses attend the patients irrespective of their colour. Why should three different classes of nurses require accommodation in three different groups of quarters at Darwin? Are the half-caste nurses trained?

Mr Frost - They are, but I do not know what certificate they hold.

Mr MAHONEY - All nurses on duty in a hospital should be either probationary or certificated in some way. Is provision being made at the hospital for maternity cases, for I have no doubt that it will be needed? Adequate maternity accommodation should be a primary consideration.

Sir Frederick Stewart - Provision is being made for maternity cases, but the amount allocated has not been segregated.

Mr MAHONEY - I should also like some information about the medical service at the hospital. It seems to me that too much is being provided for quarters of staffs of various kinds and too little for accommodation for patients. The estimated costs are altogether too high.

Mr Collins - That is due, in a considerable degree, to transport charges.

Mr MAHONEY - Could not the plaster sheets required for this building be manufactured at Darwin and so save transport costs? If transport costs are so high in respect of the materials required for this hospital, obviously they must also be high in respect of materials required for other buildings. That being 30 I suggest that the Government should take steps to reduce them, either by providing shipping or in some other way. We understand that a good deal of building activity will occur at Darwin in the next year or so. The Government would be well advised therefore to consider my suggestion. I do not feel disposed to vote for this motion until further information has been made available to us. In particular some additional explanation should be forthcoming to justify the expenditure of such a large sum for staff quarters in comparison with the amount allocated for patients.

Motion (by Sir Frederick Stewart) - by leave - agreed to.

That Standing Order No. 119 be suspended to enable the debate to proceed without interruption.

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