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Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 1956

Mr TIM FISCHER(12.26) —I join with my colleague the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Beale) in supporting the motion before the Chair relating to that vital institution, the Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, which has looked after so many veterans, war widows and community patients since World War II. In supporting the honourable member for Deakin, I join with him in emphasising the vital role which will have to be played by the repatriation general hospital system over the next decade and the related need for additional nursing home facilities as the mean or average age of so many veterans-particularly from World War II-reaches the critical years which will mean that they require increased medication and increased hospitalisation and nursing home resources.

There are just two other matters I want to touch on in relation to this motion. When I visited the Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, last year I noted the differing accommodation standards depending on whether the wards had been refurbished or were part of a newer wing. Concord Hospital has such a large area that there are problems in providing many of the services to the buildings involved. Despite all the difficult conditions, it was easy to see the spirit of the staff in seeking to do their best to look after veterans, war widows and community patients. However, since my visit last year, and again in more recent weeks, a number of concerns have been expressed in relation to admission to the Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, particularly with regard to totally and permanently incapacitated and other pensioners receiving correct priority in gaining admission as veterans, former prisoners of war or various other categories of recipients and beneficiaries under the Department of Veterans' Affairs. they are being turned away, on occasions, from admission to Concord. Naturally, I hope that on the completion of the extensions and improvements which are provided for in this motion, there will be improvements to the rate of admission to the RGH, Concord.

I take this opportunity to highlight to the House the problems which exist concerning admission and the concern that they create for so many veterans not only at Concord but also at Heidelberg, Melbourne, and elsewhere when they are turned away. I support the overall government policy of providing that a maximum of 20 per cent of patients in our repatriation system be community patients. That is desirable to try to provide the right range of discipline and professional experience to the professional staff involved. However, the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr West), the Government and the officials involved need to look very carefully at admission procedures to see that the right thing is being done for the veterans, the TPI pensioners and particularly former prisoners of war. They have often reached very critical stages with their war-related disabilities and should not experience delays in receiving adequate care and medical attention when they require them. I join with the honourable member for Deakin in supporting this motion before the chair.

Question resolved in the affirmative.