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Thursday, 12 November 1964

Senator WEDGWOOD (Victoria) . - I would be obliged if the Minister could inform the Senate whether the wards in all repatriation general hospitals are occupied and whether they are served by doctors and nurses. I think this a very important point. Like Senator Kennelly, 1 was interested in what the Minister had to say because he has had a great deal of experience in hospital management. I think I can claim to have had more than a passing acquaintance with hospital management myself. I imagine that one of the things we should consider first is the bed capacity of all the repatriation hospitals in Australia. We should also know something about their average daily bed rate, because I am not convinced that there are not many beds in hospitals which could be used by ex-servicemen, particularly men of the First World War. Every hospital knows its bed capacity. It knows its emergency capacity. If we could hear from the Minister whether all beds are occupied and whether they are served by nurses and doctors, I think we would be in a position to judge whether something more could be done.

I would like to thank Senator Mattner for his reference to any work that I may have done in connection with the hospitalisation of servicemen of the First World War. 1 believe this country is lagging sadly in its treatment of these men. After the Second World War, it was easy to trace the records of ex-servicemen and for the Government to indicate that it was prepared to grant benefits and do everything possible for men who had sacrificed their health. The position with regard to ex-servicemen of the First World War was quite different. As a result, firstly, of the attitude of the men who were not conditioned to the seeking of pensions or benefits for any disability, and, secondly, of the fact that, later the ex-serviceman was unable to produce satisfactory records of his service or medical history, many have dragged their lives out with disabilities but have received no compensation whatsoever. Today, they are a fast diminishing group of people to whom, even at .this late hour Australia owes something.

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