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Thursday, 12 November 1964

Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales) (Minister for Customs and Excise) . - I thank Senator Wedgwood for her contribution to the debate. I gather her proposition is that there should be a complete survey of all hospitals, both civilian and repatriation -

Senator Wedgwood - No.

Senator ANDERSON - Only repatriation hospitals?

Senator Wedgwood - Yes. The Minister must know the total bed capacity.

Senator ANDERSON - I gave that figure to the honorable senator earlier in the debate. I will read again the number of available repatriation beds. In all repatriation institutions, the normal hospital bed capacity of opened and closed wards is 4,049.

Senator Wedgwood - What is the average daily bed rate?

Senator ANDERSON - The average daily bed rate is approximately 90 per cent, of the total capacity. This has been the whole burden of the debate this afternoon. Senator Wright argued that because there was a 10 per cent, tolerance we could increase the number of admissions. I have suggested rather gently that the solution is not so easy. This 10 per cent, margin has to take into account other contingencies.

Senator Wedgwood - But there is an emergency tolerance in every hospital?

Senator ANDERSON - I am talking about the capacity of beds.

Senator Wright - The normal operating capacity.

Senator ANDERSON - Yes, that is right.

Senator Wright - Senator Wedgwood draws the distinction as to the emergency capacity.

Senator ANDERSON - With regard to their emergency capacity, some hospitals have taken it to the point where they have gone over 100 per cent. They accept the extra patients because it is their function to take them in. The patients are put in what are known as medical stretchers. The word " stretcher " is a misnomer. The stretchers are really beds, but a different type of bed. Repatriation hospitals' have to make that arrangement, but this situation occurs not only in repatriation hospitals but also in ordinary hospitals.

Senator Willeseereferred to the time lag in medical checkups in repatriation hospitals. This is a matter of detail and I cannot add very much to what I have already said. The point has been made and I will bring it to the attention of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz). I cannot do any more than that at the moment. My reply to Senator Hendrickson is that I am informed that of all First World War veterans, 15,300 will receive more hospital treatment than they now do, because at the present moment they are eligible to receive it only for recognised war caused disabilities. Fortyfour thousand First World War exservicemen who now receive no hospital treatment will get hospital treatment. That makes a total of 60,000. The additional 60,000 First World War ex-servicemen will become eligible under this proposal.

Senator Hendrickson - Fifteen thousand seven hundred are now in receipt of part hospital treatment?

Senator ANDERSON - Yes. Under this amendment, they will have full hospital rights and an additional 44,000 servicemen will receive hospital treatment also.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

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