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Transcript of interview with Jim Waley: Sky News: 13 January 2011: Federal assistance for aged care and mental health for Queensland flood victims



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THE HON MARK BUTLER MP

Minister for Mental Health and Ageing

TRANSCRIPT

SKY National News with Jim Waley, 13 January 2011

TOPIC: Federal assistance for aged care and mental health for Queensland flood victims

NEWSREADER 1: Now, the government has announced it will take special efforts to ensure older Australians affected by the floods are safe and taken care of, and for more, joining us now from our Sydney studio is the Acting Minister for Health and Ageing, Mark Butler.

Well, Minister, thank you for joining us, for taking the time to do it. Now these older Australians particularly - do you know where they are? Are they in, still in care facilities, are they in evacuation centres? What do you know?

BUTLER: Well, good evening. And today we have made a number of announcements to ensure that the Commonwealth is doing all that it can to safeguard the health of Queenslanders through this incredible disaster, and also providing the support that Queensland Health and health professionals in that state need. And one of the things we need to do as a Commonwealth is to ensure that older people - particularly those receiving aged care - have their needs looked after.

At the last count - and this was some hours ago - there were 11 residential aged care facilities that had been evacuated in Queensland, and one in northern New South Wales. And part of our job has been to ensure that those aged care providers have evacuation plans in place and that there are places to go which serve the needs of older Australians. Now those needs differ according to their frailty. Some very frail residents have had to be moved to hospital beds or to other residential aged care facilities in dry areas.

But it's a process that as far as possible, as far as practicable given the circumstances has so far operated pretty smoothly.

NEWSREADER 2: Minister, are you happy that their needs are being met? Have you heard of any elderly Australians that have been caught out? Because authorities all through this have been saying, you know, look out for your neighbours - particularly the elderly.

BUTLER: That's right. And the stories - I'm from South Australia and I'm in Sydney tonight - the stories that we're hearing from around Australia of Queenslanders pulling together are truly inspirational. And to a degree it can't just be government authorities and aged care facilities - we do need Queenslanders to look after their next door neighbours who might be receiving community care in their home, still have reasonably high needs, and just make sure that they're okay.

NEWSREADER 1: I know resources are stretched right across Queensland, in northern New South Wales with these floods. Do you feel as though you've got enough resources to deal with this very particular [audio skip]

BUTLER: ... pharmacy guild, again to make sure that the health needs of Queensland as far as possible during this awful disaster are looked after.

NEWSREADER 2: Are there going to be any one off special assistance payments made for elderly Queenslanders?

BUTLER: Well, we'll monitor that. We think that the needs of elderly Queenslanders, so far, are being looked after, according to the very rigid and rigorous evacuation plans that we require aged-care providers to have in place, particularly for natural disasters like this. But we'll monitor that situation.

There are other one-off... provisions that we've made for the long-term health needs of Queenslanders, rising out of these floods, and that's particularly - today I've announced some money around mental health needs that Queenslanders will find themselves experiencing in the coming weeks and months as the recovery and the grieving process emerges.

That's something we've found in previous natural disasters in Australia. And I've announced additional money to ensure that psychological [audio skip] are able to be accessed easily by Queenslanders affected by this disaster in the coming weeks and the coming months. Now obviously emergency [indistinct] by Queensland Health, and also many of the organisations that your viewers would commonly know like Lifeline, beyondblue are ready to support Queenslanders to the extent that they need.

But there will be, we've found from previous natural disasters, some people need long-term or medium-term ongoing psychological support - simply because of the enormity of this disaster, and the loss and the trauma it's caused.

NEWSREADER 2: Yeah. It's hard to get your head around. All right, before we let you go, Mark Butler, we've got the phone number on screen for people to call

for further information. Just quickly - can you give us a website off the top of your head?

BUTLER: Well it depends on your needs. Queensland Health is providing the public health information, particularly associated with the contaminated water. And Professor [audio skip] has reviewed that, and has advised all Queenslanders - and all Queensland Health professionals to pay regard to those Queensland [audio skip] that Queensland Health is publishing. Go to those numbers.

But the Department of Health federally, www.health.gov.au, has information about aged care needs and will also be able to direct people to needs associated with medicines.

NEWSREADER 2: All right, Acting Minister for Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, thank you.

BUTLER: Thanks for having me.

(ends)