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$3 billion to increase hospital access for veterans: NT.



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Minister for Veterans' Affairs Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence

Friday 23 June 2006 VA057

$3 BILLION TO INCREASE HOSPITAL ACCESS FOR VETERANS - NT

The Australian Government will spend more than $3 billion over the next four years expanding veterans’ access to private hospital services, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Bruce Billson, said today.

Mr Billson said the first national private hospital tender conducted by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs would give members of the veteran community and their treating doctors greater choice and wider access to medical facilities.

"We have doubled the number of private hospitals across Australia, in metropolitan, regional and rural areas that can provide services for veterans," he said.

"In the Northern Territory veterans now have direct access to Darwin Private Hospital.

Eligible Territorian veterans will receive hospital treatment paid for by the Australian Government at an estimated cost of $4 million over the next four years.

"These new arrangements mean veterans can access a full range of treatment services from large metropolitan surgical hospitals, regional facilities and small local hospitals close to family and home.

"The hospital to which a veteran is admitted is determined by their treating doctor based on clinical need. Doctors now have more choice and greater flexibility. For example, a veteran from a rural area requiring major surgery could have the operation in a large metropolitan facility, but be moved closer to home and their family as they recuperate and no longer need specialised care."

Mr Billson said until now doctors had been required to seek prior approval from DVA before admitting a veteran patient to some hospitals.

"Most prior approval requirements have now been removed, simplifying hospital access and streamlining administration," he said.

Contracted hospitals have also been offered incentives to improve the quality of care for veterans.

"For example we are funding some chronic care pilot programs and there are incentives for hospitals to develop treatment plans for chronic conditions commonly experienced by veterans such as diabetes, coronary disease or respiratory disease.

"The aim is to help veterans to improve their quality of life and reduce the time they need to spend in hospital. This might include developing innovative care strategies, arranging visits by community nurses, or providing veterans with

the knowledge and skills to better manage their own conditions so they can avoid unnecessary hospital admission.

"As well as preventing hospital admissions we are also encouraging hospitals to ensure veterans are well and have suitable post-hospital arrangements in place before being sent home," he said.

All hospitals contracted by DVA to provide services to veterans are licensed, quality accredited, and have agreed to provide preferential access to veterans, subject to clinical need.

Mr Billson also noted that these private hospital arrangements supplement agreements with each State and Territory Government under which the Australian Government, in addition to funding under the Australian Health Care Agreements, meets the full cost of veteran treatment in public hospitals.

"These new arrangements are a demonstration of the Australian Government’s commitment to providing best quality health services to our veteran community," Mr Billson said.

Editors Note: A complete list of contracted hospitals can be found at http://minister.dva.gov.au/misc/hospital_list.htm

Media inquiries: Cameron Hill 0408 239 521