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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 8174

Senator Mark Bishop asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, upon notice, on 25 September 2002:

(1) With reference to the answer to a question asked at an estimates hearing of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee on 4 June 2002, concerning the monopoly of hospital services to veterans in the Perth metropolitan area: Did the President of the Repatriation Commission express the view that the contract with Ramsay Health Care did `not provide a sole provider status to Ramsay health care'; if so, what consideration has the commission given to the extension of tier-one hospitals to additional providers in the Perth and Brisbane metropolitan areas.

(2) Are Perth and Brisbane the only cities in which exclusive coverage of veterans by tier-one health care hospitals has been effectively given to former repatriation hospitals.

(3) Have discussions with Ramsay Health Care included and suggestion that other tier-one hospitals be contracted; if so, what was its reaction.

(4) What discussion has the commission or the department had with the ex-service community in Perth and Brisbane to ascertain their views on the extension of tier-one hospitals in those cities.

Senator Hill (Minister for Defence) —The Minister for Veterans' Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) At the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee on 4 June 2002 the President of the Repatriation Commission said: “We have the view that the contract does not provide a sole provider status to Ramsay Health care in those two metropolitan areas. If veteran opinion changed and sought wider choice, for example, then we would have regard for that and then we would need to sit down and negotiate with Ramsay Health Care how such a change in view might be dealt with.”

The issue has been discussed as a meeting of the National Treatment Monitoring Committee (NATMOC) and the West Australian Treatment Monitoring Committee on 11 April 2002, where the Chairman of the Commission stated on the basis of discussion at the meetings that the Commission was of the view that the majority of veteran organisations favoured continuation of current arrangements. The matter was discussed again by NATMOC at a meeting in Brisbane on 25 July 2002, in conjunction with the Queensland Treatment Monitoring Committee, with the same conclusion.

In October 2002 there have been two separate meetings involving representatives of the veteran community in Perth that discussed this issue, with one favouring continuation of the current arrangements and the other, a review of current arrangements. The Commission will continue to keep itself informed of the news of veteran organisations in Western Australia and consider a change in approach if there is a widespread change in veteran opinion.

The Commission is not aware of any substantive discussions on this issue in the veteran community in Brisbane.

(2) No former Repatriation General Hospital has been given exclusive coverage of veterans in any city. All public hospitals in all states and territories have Tier 1 status under the Repatriation Private Patient Scheme. The Tier 1 arrangements between the Commonwealth and Ramsay Health Care, with respect to private hospital services provided at Hollywood Private Hospital in Perth and Greenslopes Private Hospital in Brisbane, added to the already existing Tier 1 network of public hospitals. Further, where it is not possible to obtain treatment within a reasonable period of time, there is a `safety-net' arrangement for veterans to access other metropolitan Perth and metropolitan Brisbane private hospitals with prior approval of the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

(3) In 2001 there were some discussions between the Repatriation Commission and Ramsay Health Care on possible ramifications of the introduction of Veteran Partnering. The outcome of those discussions was reflected in the President's statement referred to in part (1) above.

(4) The ex-service community formally meets with the Repatriation Commission at regular quarterly meetings of the respective Treatment Monitoring Committees in each state and at a national level. Ex-service representation on each of these committees ensures that veterans in all states are able to bring issues of concern to the Repatriation Commission's attention. In addition to these meetings there have been two meetings recently in Perth that is referred to in part (1) above. The Western Australian Deputy Commissioner of DVA represented the Repatriation Commission at both of these meetings.