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Thursday, 31 May 1973
Page: 2946

Mr DOYLE (Lilley) - I, too, am concerned about rights. The Brisbane Courier-Mail' yesterday revealed what appears to be another tragic example of the stirling of free speech in Queensland under the Country Party-Liberal coalition Government. It seems that the highly respected General Medical Superintendent of the Royal Brisbane Hospital, Doctor A. F. Knyvett, had to retract statements he had been reported as making only a few days earlier. Queenslanders are suggesting that the retraction was at the request of the Minister for Health, Mr Tooth, a man who apparently cannot bear to hear the truth about the discredited system for which he is responsible. In an internal memorandum Dr Knyvett described in great detail some of the defects he saw present in the Royal Brisbane Hospital. These were wide ranging.

He pointed out that in a 1,000-bed hospital only 3 relatively junior doctors were available from midnight to 8.30 a.m. He also mentioned that people had to wait for long periods at the casualty department without being seen. The picture that was painted of deficiencies and the consequences of those deficiencies is quite terrible. It suggests a deterioriation in the standard of health care in Brisbane's leading hospital. One would have thought that Mr Tooth, as the Health Minister, would have moved quickly to rectify this potentially dangerous situation, especially the lack of staff at night. But instead he organised what appears to be a witch hunt. Following this he denied the allegations and then tried to explain them away. It is not as though these conditions were unexpected or new developments. Anyone concerned with the Queensland hospital system has been disturbed for years about the decline in facilities provided in our free hospitals. This is in no way reflects on the staff of those hospitals. They have done the best they can do under the most discouraging conditions. I pay tribute to the medical and nursing staff of these hospitals in Queensland. They have certainly done a wonderful job against overwhelming odds on some occasions.

The basic fact is that hospitals need more money. Dr Knyvett said in his annual report in 1971:

One must be pardoned for being dismal sometimes about the future of our hospitals. The gap between what needs to be done and what can bo done with present finances seems to be widening rather than narrowing.

Maintenance expenditure per bed by the Queensland Government on its free public wards would have to increase by 40 per cent to equal the Australian average. The Queensland Government's expenditure in this area is the worst by far in the Commonwealth. To bring our free public ward hospital services up to the average standard of other States, the Queensland Government would have to provide an extra $2 for every $5 it currently spends, that is, an increase in annual expenditure of $20m. This is far beyond the resources of the Queensland Government. The basic problem is that the hospitals might be called free' but they are not free at all. When money is spent in providing a free hospital system this means that it cannot be spent in some other area of Government expenditure. Mr Tooth of the Queensland Government knows this. Yet when deficiencies are pointed out by the people best informed to know the truth, that is, the medical superintendent and the staff of the hospital, Mr Tooth intervenes and apparently endeavours to silence these people.

Mr TomBurns, the Labor member for Lytton in Queensland and Labor's shadow Minister for Health in the State Parliament, painted out that Mr Tooth did not even deny the shortcomings, inadequacies and problems outlined by Dr Knyvett. What he said was that they were confidential, and neither patients nor the public should know about them. The staff of Queensland's hospitals must be given freedom of expression to state grievances and point out difficulties in the system to the public without having public service restrictions imposed upon them. If they do not point out the problems nothing will ever be done to improve the system in Queensland. The Queensland Government is not entirely ignorant of conditions in its hospitals. Dr Crawford, a Liberal member of the Queensland Parliament, has pointed out time and again deficiencies in the system and shown that improvements are necessary. But unfortunately he is the only voice in the Liberal wilderness, and Mr Tooth chooses not to hear his voice.

The basic problem of the Royal Brisbane Hospital and some of the other hospitals in Queensland is really one of deficiencies. Queensland hospitals urgently need more money. Fortunately, with the Labor Government presently in office in Canberra they will get this money. Instead of penalising our free public hospitals, as the Liberals did by withholding money for hospitals from the Grants

Commission, the Labor Government will give the Queensland hospitals an extra $30m under the proposals of the Health Insurance Planning Committee. Public hospitals will get a new deal from us. Instead of a measly 82 a day bed subsidy to public hospitals we will be giving them a subsidy of $13 a day or more to improve public facilities and we will be meeting 50 per cent of the running costs of the public hospitals. I wanted to raise this matter because it is important for this Parliament and certainly important to the people of Queensland that they are informed of what Labor's policy will be.

There will be some opposition to our health plan and a lot of false propaganda will be levelled against it but I am confident that the people of Queensland, with knowledge of the finance that will be made available by this Government to Queensland, will fully support our plan.

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