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Wednesday, 3 October 1984
Page: 1478

Mr KEOGH —Is the Minister for Health aware of an advertisement recently placed in the Queensland Press by the Moran health care group which suggested that Queensland's sick aged are being unjustly treated? Can the Minister assure the House that the Commonwealth nursing home arrangements do not discriminate against Queenslanders?

Dr BLEWETT —Yes, I am aware of a misleading and rather dishonest advertisement placed in the Queensland Press by the Moran health care group, which of course operates one of the biggest chains of nursing homes in this country. I was particularly disturbed by that advertisement because it set out to cause, I think, unnecessary concern to both nursing home patients and their relatives. The advertisement tries to suggest that, because the Commonwealth nursing home benefit levels are lower in Queensland than in some other States, patients in Queensland are being disadvantaged. Of course, that advertisement totally disregards the basis on which those payments are made-payments which were determined by the previous Government in 1977.

In 1977 the previous Government introduced a system whereby nursing home benefit levels were set once a year with increases occurring every November. The benefit levels were set so that in each State the Commonwealth benefit, plus the minimum patient contribution, was sufficient to cover the total charges raised for 70 per cent of the beds in private nursing homes in each State. So every State was treated in exactly the same way. Seventy per cent of their beds were totally covered by the nursing home benefit plus the patient statutory payment. All States were treated the same. The reason that the benefits are different-as the Moran group knows very clearly because it has been involved in this for years-is that the cost structures of nursing homes are different in each State because State governments require quite different staffing levels and they have quite different demands. For instance, Mr Moran knows quite clearly that those costs are very much lower in Queensland than in some other States and that is why the payments are different for Queensland.

The advertisement is so misleading that, having looked at it, one would want to know what happened to Western Australia. Mr Moran mentions all the other States and leaves out Western Australia because it simply does not support his argument . He also says in that advertisement that thousands of Queensland pensioners are having to pay extra fees in their nursing homes. From 1 September only 1,000 out of the 12,000 Queenslanders in nursing homes will have to pay something more than their full pension. But it is the same in every other State. There are a number of people in the high cost, expensive end of nursing homes that we do not fully cover.

Let me turn to the motives behind this advertisement. It seems to me that the real aim of this advertisement is simply to increase the profits of this group. We do not oppose the private sector in the nursing home industry. In fact, this Government has given substantial support to the private nursing home sector. But one must question the motives of a man who provides this misleading, distorted and worrying information, a man who has made a fortune out of the nursing home industry in this country. Mr Moran was recently included in the Business Review Weekly list of Australia's wealthiest 200 people. It was said that he had a value of $30m, made mostly from the private nursing home and private hospital area.

It was pointed out in that magazine that in the past 18 months he had swung his activities from his base in New South Wales to Queensland because he felt that the red tape, the conditions, the standards of nursing home demands, were less in Queensland than in other States. However, when he got to Queensland and found that the same basis applies in relation to cost, he then placed in the newspaper misleading and distorted advertisements which serve only to worry the pensioners of Queensland and, of course, if they were successful, to push up his own profits.