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Thursday, 9 March 1961

Mr OSBORNE (EVANS, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Repatriation) - Statements to that effect have been made in Victoria recently, but they are only partly correct. Heidelberg hospital has a very great capacity. If all the wards in the pavilion as well as the wards in the multi-story building were opened the capacity of the hospital would be well over 1,200 beds. That sort of capacity has not been needed since the years immediately after the war. Recently, there has been some difficulty in filling the establishment of nurses at Heidelberg. We are short-staffed there, and this has led to the closing of some beds. The shortage of nurses is not restricted to the repatriation hospital, but applies, I believe, to hospitals generally in Victoria and, indeed, throughout Australia. It is not correct that exservicemen have been turned away without receiving the treatment to which they are entitled. The worst that has happened is that in some non-urgent surgical cases exservicemen have been asked to wait a week or a fortnight before admission. Steps are being taken to attract more student nurses and nursing aides to the repatriation service, but this necessarily is a long-term remedy. I can assure the honorable member for Chisholm, whose deep interest in the welfare of ex-servicemen is very well known, that I will see to it that no exserviceman goes without the treatment to which he is entitled.

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