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Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 1955

Mr BEALE(12.23) —I thank the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr West) for making available to me details of the motion for construction of a new acute ward accommodation block at the Repatriation General Hospital in Concord, New South Wales. The Opposition supports the on-going program of upgrading facilities at Concord, especially as many thousands of World War II veterans are now reaching that time of their lives when their need for facilities such as described in this motion will increase.

Although overall numbers of veterans are now falling, resulting incidentally for the first time in a contracting of the service pension scheme, it is clear that the requirement for hospital and nursing home beds for veterans will continue to increase well into the 1990s. It is disappointing that even as late as September 1986 there were 106 beds at the hospital closed. The Minister says in his speech that changed technological and clinical standards will lead to the loss of `at least 168 bed spaces' in the building and then goes on to say that the new ward will replace the loss of bed spaces by the construction of a new ward block with the capacity of 168 beds. What the Minister does not say is whether the measures needed to meet changed technological and clinical standards will result in a reduction of the total number of available beds from their current level of 725 and I would suggest that this is a matter to which the Minister should give his attention.

The Minister might also care to note that there are a number of specific problems that arise on admission to the Repatriation Hospital at Concord and these are experienced by totally and permanently incapacitated and other pensioners, and it is to be hoped that the upgrading envisaged will alleviate these difficulties and also that steps will be taken to ensure that these problems do not occur while the construction of this ward is taking place. Mr Deputy Speaker, the Minister says he expects construction to commence in August 1988 and accordingly there is no mention of this project in the Explanations for Estimates of Expenditure 1986-87. However, in view of the upcoming May statement, I hope the Minister has thought through carefully the implications of this project on what will undoubtedly be some severe spending cuts, and that he does not disappoint the veterans in our community by agreeing to some sort of deferral of its taking place as a result of the May statement. As I said earlier, Mr Deputy Speaker, the Opposition supports the reference of this work to the Public Works Committee.