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Wednesday, 3 June 1970

Mr Hayden asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:

(1)   What action was taken by his Department after the commitment to assist the construction of the Calvary Hospital was given by Mr Holt in October 1966.

Since the introduction of the new conditions in 1969, the Post Office has advanced funds amounting to $18,000 to subscribers for the upgrading of private sections of lines. However, this figure does not have much significance since a number of subscribers who upgraded their lines did not require advancement of funds and, therefore, the figure of$1 8,000 does not represent the total costs involved.

Hospital Bed Costs (Question No. 910)

Mr WHITLAM (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) asked the Minister for

Health, upon notice:

(1)   When has his Department conducted surveys of (a) public hospital costs and (b) nursing home costs.

(2)   What were the average bed day costs revealed by each survey.

Dr Forbes - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   My Department conducted surveys of -

(a)   Public hospital costs for the years 1963-64 to 1967-68.

(b)   Nursing home costs for the years 1964-65 to 1966-67.

(2)   The average costs per occupied bed day (including out-patients' costs) in public hospitals revealed by the surveys were:

(2)   What Commonwealth expenditure has been incurred with respect to the design of the hospital.

Dr Forbes - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   Following acceptance by the Church authorities of the Government's offer of 4th October 1966, the Department assisted the Little Company of Mary in negotiations for a site and in the preparation of a brief for the Order's architects. Details of the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the Order were also finalised.

After a year of planning and negotiation the hospital architects advised that the estimate for a 200-bed hospital of appropriate standard was $5. 5m. Various alternatives within the Government's agreed level of commitments were discussed between the Department of Health and the Little Company of Mary. The Department of Health could not, of course, vary the level of Government commitment. In December of 1967 the Church authorities, approached the then Prime Minister about the Government's level of commitment to the Calvary Hospital project and in January of 1968 the then Prime Minister replied to the effect that the Government was prepared to provide assistance for the construction of a 200-bed hospital at a capital cost comparable to that which would be incurred by the Government if it were itself directly providing the facilities. This undertaking by the Government was a variation of the original offer to provide assistance on a S3 for $1 basis up to a ceiling contribution by the Government of $3m for a hospital of up to 200 beds. The ceiling figure under which the early planning of the hospital was carried out, was, in effect, removed and a new comparative basis was introduced in regard to cost. Planning by the Church authorities was then recommenced on this new basis.

After planning had proceeded for another year, two factors were reported by the Department of Health to be causing concern. These were that, because of delays in architectural matters the possible timetable for construction of Calvary Hospital was apparently falling behind, and that the estimated costs of Calvary Hospital had again increased. In November of 1968 the hospital architects had advised that the estimated cost stood at $7.287m. A later estimate given in June 1969 was $7.847m.

Negotiations ensued revolving around time and cost estimates. The cost estimates for Calvary Hospital were higher than estimates of the costs Which would be incurred if the Government were to build the hospital itself. The design of the hospital was judged by both the Department of Works and the Department of Health to bc uneconomic, largely because the services designed into it were apparently sufficient for close to a 300 bed rather than a 200 bed hospital.

After discussions and explorations of means of maintaining the project, it became apparent that further Government decisions were needed to resolve the matter.

The facts of the situation were placed before the Government in December 1969. A decision was subsequently made by the Government that stage two of the Woden Hospital should be expedited as the most practical early means of obtaining additional hospital beds for the Australian Capital Territory and that the construction of Calvary Hospital should be deferred.

Further discussions have now taken place with the Little Company of Mary with a view to the construction in Canberra of a 300 bed hospital to be built to the Order's plans. The Government is willing to provide, as previously, substantial financial assistance, and to have the project under construction in 1974. The Government has not abandoned the project.

(2)   Payments made by the Commonwealth to the Little Company of Mary to date total $266,294.

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