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Thursday, 6 April 2000
Page: 15526

Mr BILLSON (12:41 PM) —I rise today to draw the parliament's attention to the article by Darren Gray in today's Melbourne Age which puts the events of the Riverside Nursing Home into some perspective. What it says is that under Labor Riverside was not the place where we would want our loved persons to be. Labor has proven to be impotent in its efforts to protect the wellbeing, the dignity, the health needs and the personal support requirements of residents at Riverside. All one needs to do is to look through some of the standards monitoring visit reports from 1993 to see a litany of concerns raised by the then department with the operators of the facility which led the department to recommend the closure of the facilities. Where was the Labor government? Where was the Labor administration under Carmen Lawrence and her predecessor, Brian Howe? Did they close Riverside? No. Not because there was a lack of compelling evidence that it needed to be closed, and not because there was not a list as long as your arm of concerns about how residents were being treated and the condition of the facilities, but because there was a lack of will. They were not prepared to make the hard decision to close Riverside in the interests of the residents that were there. The reason being offered was that there was no alternative accommodation.

Minister Bishop deserves the credit and the support of the parliament for taking decisive action in the interests of the residents of Riverside to find appropriate accommodation and to move on with this sorry history of neglect of senior and frail citizens of our community at Riverside. We cannot forget where we have come from. When the first physical assessment of residential aged care facilities in this country was carried out by this government, 227 of those facilities identified as substandard were in Victoria. What do Labor want to do? They want to go back to the very same regime that allowed those circumstances to emerge, that permitted so many facilities to be of substandard physical condition and that allowed this sort of substandard care for the ageing and frail residents and people's family members—the loved ones—to endure in those later years. There is no point going back to that old system; that old system failed. That old system brought about the concerns that are itemised in the standards monitoring visits reports going to the very heart of the dignity, the physical needs, the health care, the supervision and the condition of the facilities at Riverside that Labor failed to act on. When this government was elected, we started to see some improvement at Riverside because the proprietors got the very clear message that the coalition was concerned about the care and the dignity of our most frail and oldest Australians. They have failed to meet those standards and it is a credit to the government for acting decisively to deal with the residents' interests.

Main Committee adjourned at 12.44 p.m.