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Thursday, 21 June 2001
Page: 28325

Ms MACKLIN (2:44 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Aged Care. Minister, following your last answer where you emphasised the transparency of your accreditation system, are you aware that Catholic Health Australia, one of the largest providers of nursing home care in Australia, have called for a full independent inquiry into accreditation? Are you aware that Catholic Health have said to you:

It is time to be transparent and open with the community in the interests of all who are dedicated to the elderly frail and sick.

Minister, why don't you allow transparency in your nursing home system when we now have such an appalling litany of abuse and neglect of our frailest elderly Australians?

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (Minister for Aged Care) —I thank the honourable member for Jagajaga for her question. I am more than aware of Mr Francis Sullivan's comments. Francis Sullivan was, of course, an adviser to a former Labor Party health minister—none other than former Premier Carmen Lawrence over there. I noticed in his statement that he says that Catholic Health Australia offers to take over the accreditation function.

Mr Howard —They want to judge themselves.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP —That is right. With regard to the system of accrediting homes and ensuring that good care is to be delivered, we have partners in this exercise—we have churches, charitable organisations, community organisations, state governments and local governments—and when we look at where sanctions have to be put in place they affect all of those sectors. No one sector has not fallen below standard at some stage, but the good thing is they are working with the agency to raise their standards.

I notice that ANHECA, the peak body for private providers, put out a statement today too—which is quite amazing really—suggesting that it is a bad thing that the agency has become part of the compliance process. They are actually insisting that standards be applied, and then at the end they say:

If all residential aged care sector stakeholders had a say in the control and function of the Agency, then many of the current issues surrounding undue Government interference in the operations of the Agency would disappear ...

I bet they would! I bet they would, because there would be no transparency and there would be no independent arbiter. The important thing about this is that the concern is for our residents. The residents are always the important people—not propping up poor providers but looking after the residents. If providers cannot measure up, then they do leave the system: 190 during the accreditation process were either closed or relocated because they could not meet the new standards. Those 11 homes that have sanctions on them are ones that are continuing to be monitored by the agency and by the department to ensure that they come up to standard, which is what the industry wants, and it is what is in the interests of residents.