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Wednesday, 24 October 1984
Page: 2326

Senator COLSTON —Has the attention of the Minister for Veterans' Affairs been drawn to recent media coverage concerning the long waiting lists for specialised surgery in some State public hospitals? Is the Minister satisfied that the health care provided by the Commonwealth in repatriation hospitals is of an acceptable standard?

Senator GIETZELT —I understand that in quite a number of, if not all, the State hospital systems there are problems in accommodating the number of patients requiring hospitalisation, surgery and other related assistance. That, I suppose , is because State governments have difficulties in providing sufficient funds to maintain the services in State hospital systems. Similarly, the Commonwealth has difficulties in the way in which funds are allocated to the repatriation hospitals. The honourable senator asked me whether I am satisfied that the health care provided by the repatriation hospitals is of an acceptable standard. I do not think over a large number of years sufficient funds have been made available to the repatriation hospital system throughout Australia. The hospitals have been kept going, but I doubt whether they have kept up to the standards that are required in a modern society.

In the last two Budgets I have received substantial increases in funds to modernise our hospitals, to refurbish the wards and provide funds for specialised equipment, but we have a long way to go. In respect of our hospital system in Australia, my general view is that problems exist in both the repatriation hospitals, which are Commonwealth responsibilities, and the State hospitals. In the honourable senator's State of Queensland, I understand, there are grave problems, but problems also exist in many of the other States. I think substantial funds need to be made available federally to the Commonwealth repatriation system and to the States to ensure that we have an effective and modern hospital system capable of meeting the needs of all patients in Australia .