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Monday, 15 September 2003
Page: 20015

Mr LINDSAY (2:58 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Ageing, representing the Minister for Health and Ageing. Would the minister inform the House on what the government is doing to ensure that elderly Australians receive the assistance and care they need after hospitalisation?

Mr ANDREWS (Minister for Ageing) —I thank the honourable member for Herbert for his question. I was delighted, not so long ago, to visit his electorate to meet with aged and community care providers and also visit the medical school at James Cook University. In response to the honourable member's question, the government is committed to ensuring that older Australians receive the services they need in the important transition to home after a stay in hospital. Indeed, I was pleased to announce recently that the Townsville Innovative Care Rehabilitation Service pilot in the honourable member for Herbert's electorate will provide 24 additional flexible care places over two years, worth some $1.3 million in Australian government funding.

Earlier this year the Prime Minister announced the new $253 million Pathways Home program, which will help older people leaving hospital to return home. This program provides one-off funding of over a quarter of a billion dollars over a five-year period to assist the states and territories in upgrading their infrastructure for rehabilitation and step-down care. This will assist older people to return home after hospital. New South Wales is receiving $86 million; Victoria, $63 million; Queensland, $45 million; Western Australia, $23 million. There is, of course, funding to the other states as well.

In addition to these programs, the government is also meeting the needs of older Australians through the Innovative Care Rehabilitation Service pilots. This is in partnership with other stakeholders, including state and territory governments and approved age care providers. I recently announced an additional 483 flexible care places, which have been allocated to 19 pilot projects through the innovative pool for 2002-03. This is additional funding of $31 million for these projects. There are now 30 such pilots in operation throughout Australia, with 865 flexible age care places.

With an ageing population, we would expect that a greater number of older patients will require acute and subacute hospital care. In contrast to these improvements in conditions and the provision of extra places and beds, the Labor state governments around Australia are closing hospital beds. The Beattie government in Queensland, where the honourable member's electorate is found, has closed 522 beds since it came to government. Premier Gallop in Western Australia has closed 115 hospital beds. Premier Bracks in Victoria has closed 92 acute care beds. Taking the cake, Premier Carr in New South Wales has closed 5,330 beds.