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Friday, 19 May 1939

Sir FREDERICK STEWART (Parrarnatta Minister for Health) . - in reply- I am pleased to note the general concurrence from all sides of the House with the proposal that I have submitted for consideration. The only point calling for reply from me is the suggestion made by certain members that the Public Works Committee, in its efforts to achieve economy, has been too successful and possibly has achieved it at the expense of efficiency. Particularly has that argument been applied to the reduction of the number of beds originally proposed to thenumber recommended in the report. I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that, whereas statistical information indicated that, in 1937 daily occupancy of beds at the hospital was 31, the report contemplates a hospital of 60 beds. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) appeared to think there was some inconsistency in the report in relation to the daily average occupancy. Whereas in one part of the report it was recorded that, the daily average occupancy of beds in the hospital in 1937 was 31, another part recorded a daily average occupancy of 40. The honorable member has overlooked the fact that the statistical information relating to a daily average occupancy of 31 beds related to the whole of the year 1937, but the reference to 40 beds related to that part only of the year when the inquiry was so conducted, which, of course, was in the second half of 1938. The report mentions that the general standard was the provision of 6.5 beds for every 1,000 of the population, but. because of the peculiar circumstances of Darwin, the committee wisely disregarded that. The population within a 20-mile radius of Darwin is 2,000 whites, 1,000 coloured aliens and 600 aboriginals, a total of 3,600, and it is proposed to provide seventeen beds for each thousand of the population. That is two and a half times greater than the generally accepted standard.

Mr Blain - Does that figure include the Army?

Sir FREDERICK STEWART - Yes. None of us expects that the population of Darwin will remain static, but the most optimistic estimate is that the population will not reach 6,000 until 1950, eleven years from now. Even then there will be ten beds for every thousand of the population. Moreover, this report, as should all reports, contains provision for an extension of the hospital as needs arise. I inform the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) that ten beds are to be set apart for maternity cases.

I am glad to note the anxiety of honorable members of this House to ensure the adequacy of hospitals which come under the control of the Commonwealth authorities. I hope at: an early date to '"'cash in" on that anxiety displayed by honorable members. I hope that the House without further delay will authorize the Government to proceed with the recommended work.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Sit ting suspended from 12.42 to 2.15 p.m.

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