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Tuesday, 7 March 2000
Page: 14040

Dr SOUTHCOTT (4:27 PM) —I have just done a search of Hansard, and I have found that yesterday when the member for Isaacs asked a question in parliament it was the first time the words `Riverside Nursing Home' had ever passed his lips in this chamber. He is the local federal member for the Riverside Nursing Home. We have heard one of the shadow ministers talk about spot checks and what they would have achieved. What I would like to know is: did the local federal Labor member ever visit the Riverside Nursing Home? Did he ever facilitate any complaints from staff, residents or families at Riverside Nursing Home? We have talked about spot checks that would have occurred from the department. What the member for Lilley should ask is: were there any spot checks from the local federal member? I do not think so.

The Age on 3 March noted that concerns about safety at the Riverside Nursing Home first emerged in 1988. In 1992, the department noted that urgent action was required in relation to issues of continence, infection control and health care. Several times during the Labor years it was rated as in need of urgent action. On 29 March 1993, it was cited as a home of concern; it was not declared until 13 December 1993. In January 1994, the department considered revoking the home's approved provider status. What action was taken under ministers Peter Staples, Brian Howe or the member for Fremantle, Carmen Lawrence? None. This is a problem that dragged on for years under Labor. What no-one has focused on is that, under accreditation, homes which do not meet the standards will be closed at the end of the year. How many nursing homes were closed in the 13 years of Labor? One.

In 1993 Professor Gregory noted in a survey of the nursing home sector that 75 per cent of nursing homes did not meet Australian design standards; 38 per cent of residents shared a bedroom with four or more people; 13 per cent of nursing homes did not meet fire standards; 11 per cent of nursing homes did not meet health standards. Yet, in the last four years of the Labor government, capital funding for nursing homes was reduced by 75 per cent to a miserly $10 million. By contrast, through the accommodation charges, the coalition government has provided $1.4 billion over a 10-year period for the capital upgrade of nursing homes. We have heard a lot of noise over the last two days, and I would like to know what the Labor Party's approach is. Are they seriously saying that more spot inspections would have prevented this problem? Is that what they are saying? We have already heard that there are detailed inspections for accreditation and that there are detailed inspections for the residential classification schedules that are going on—much more detailed than just walking in and having a look around the nursing home. We have already seen the failure of on-spot checks from the member for Isaacs who had no idea, after four years of being the member, that there were any problems at this nursing home.

Is the Labor Party arguing that we should remove delegation and that somehow the minister should be responsible for every clinical decision and for every care plan in nursing homes? No. The minister is taking the same approach which Labor took in government, which is that you have to delegate some powers to the department. I would like to pose another question to the Labor Party in relation to the treatment that was ordered and given by a registered nurse in the state of Victoria. I wonder whether you are going to be asking John Thwaites, the state Minister for Health, questions about the registration of nurses in the state of Victoria. In terms of the coalition government, our record has been recurrent funding for residential aged care in nursing homes and hostels. That has grown by 42 per cent—a billion dollars extra in the four years since March 1996. We have introduced accreditation. As the minister said, 34 outdated, substandard nursing homes and hostels in Victoria alone have chosen to close rather than to try to meet the stringent accreditation criteria. The Riverside Nursing Home had already failed certification—that is related to the building standards—and, if they had not improved the quality of the building by the end of this year, they would have closed anyway. Commonwealth funding would have ceased for them.

The coalition has responded to the Gregory report to provide for capital upgrade of nursing homes. We have introduced accreditation following consultation with consumers and with the industry, which is a rigorous process and which provides an audit visit that assesses management systems. Under accreditation, there have been 1,250 visits to facilities. Under residential classification schedules, there have been 1,500 visits, including surveying of 14,000 care plans. Labor's record on accreditation and monitoring was poor. The focus has been lost in this debate in that we have been a government that has introduced quality care into nursing homes. The vast majority of nursing homes and hostels are meeting the accreditation standards. Under quality care, all residents who need nursing services will receive nursing services. That was not previously the case under the Labor government. Under certification, 98 per cent of facilities have passed certification. We have also provided more capital for the residential aged care facilities—$1.4 billion over the first 10 years, which is provided from the accommodation charge. The complaints resolution scheme had 4,000 complaints and over 90 per cent of them have been settled to the satisfaction of both parties. Under the Labor government, you had no accreditation, no certification, no anonymous complaints mechanism; you had a bureaucratic top-down system and it concentrated on process, not outcomes. Regarding the case made by the Labor Party over the last two days, they have not made the case against the minister. We have heard that the department was slow in referring the specific complaint of kerosene baths to the agency, but no-one has disputed that once the minister was aware of the situation she acted promptly and appropriately. The minister became aware of this on 15 February, and we had someone in the home by the next day.

I would like to finish by contrasting that with the approach the Labor Party took in office under the previous ministers Staples, Howe and Lawrence. There are members opposite who were part of the governments in which they were the ministers for aged care, and not once did they ever call on those ministers to resign. I think the coalition government has done a lot to improve the quality of care in the nursing homes. There are nursing homes around Australia that are not going to meet accreditation and they are being scrutinised carefully by the department.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jenkins)—Order! The discussion is now concluded.