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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 960

Mr REITH(10.34) —I wish to make some comments in regard to nursing home beds in Victoria. I refer in particular to the need for the provision of nursing home beds in the Westernport area of my electorate, and in particular of Koo-wee-rup. I wish to address some remarks concerning an application by the Westernport Memorial Hospital for an additional 10 nursing home beds. I am sure the House is aware that the Government has adopted a policy which the Opposition has generally supported to redirect the emphasis in regard to aged care accommodation away from nursing home beds to hostel beds. The situation in regard to the Westernport Memorial Hospital is one which is difficult inasmuch as it finds itself caught between the previous policy carried out by the Government and the recently adopted policy. The particular currency of the situation is that the Government, I understand, is reviewing all existing approvals in principle for nursing home beds and hostel beds throughout Australia and is looking at drawing up a national priority list. Hopefully, the Minister for Community Services (Mr Hurford) will be in a position to make some decisions by April of this year.

The Westernport nursing home currently has 10 existing beds. It originally made application for 16 extra beds and received an approval in principle for 10 extra beds in March 1986. I believe that in these situations where organisations such as this have existing approvals in principle the position needs to be looked at sympathetically and needs to be looked at on the basis of the representations made to these organisations when their original approvals in principle were granted.

Firstly, there has been a delay in this matter, a delay anticipated by the Government when the approval in principle was first granted. In fact, it was said to be essentially on a provisional basis because there are appeal procedures available to other persons in the region. Those appeal processes were in fact taken advantage of and the hospital has not been in a position to proceed because of that appeals process. Secondly, when the approval in principle was granted, it was granted on the understanding of the local community that before the Westernport nursing home could look to the Commonwealth for a capital contribution it would need to put its own house in order and raise its funds. The local community at Koo-wee-rup, with assistance of the Shire of Cranbourne, has done just that. It has been out and about. It has raised something in the order of $180,000 which is a large amount of money for this particular area. As I say, the community has met its side of the bargain. In fact, representations were made to people. I have a copy of a letter addressed to residents of the shire. It states:

We have proved to the appropriate Federal and State Governments the vital and pressing need to establish additional nursing home facilities for persons in the Shire of Cranbourne. It is now our responsibility to ensure that the project comes to fruition which necessarily involves the raising of $200,000 towards the project.

That was the bargain and they have essentially adhered to their side of the bargain. The third factor which I think is important is that in dealing with these applications it is my view that there should be no element of retrospectivity. In other words, these organisations should not be caught up with the change in government policy. The other important factor is that these additional beds will add to the financial viability of the existing beds. Without these additional nursing home beds I believe that the future of the existing 10 beds is in jeopardy.

I simply ask the Government for a sympathetic hearing to this application by the Westernport nursing home. I ask it for some capital funding. Lastly, if those things are difficult, I ask that we have an opportunity to sit down and negotiate a way out and a means by which these important nursing home bed facilities can, in fact, be supplied.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.