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Thursday, 12 September 1985
Page: 502

Senator DEVLIN —Does the Minister for Veterans' Affairs know that changes to arrangements for the delivery of domiciliary nursing services to eligible Department of Veterans' Affairs clients in Tasmania are causing concern to both clients and providers? Can he please explain the proposed changes and their implications?

Senator GIETZELT —There are a number of problems in Tasmania in respect of domiciliary nursing. An internal audit conducted by my Department revealed a number of problems in respect of domiciliary nursing. The main concern shown as a result of that survey was that there is an excessive cost problem. Whereas Tasmania accounts for 4 per cent of those who are eligible for domiciliary nursing care by the Department of Veterans' Affairs, the costs exceeded 11 per cent of the national expenditure. On the basis of that, of course, we carried out further investigations. That has caused some minor problems in the determination of the Department to rectify an obvious problem of overservicing. This is a clear case where privatisation was in fact costing taxpayers an amount in excess of that for which the service could be provided. So the Department decided to provide the service on a temporary basis, pending negotiations with those providing the nursing services and with the Tasmanian Government. The Tasmanian Government has made certain proposals to me which suggest that it can provide the service at a rate comparable to that for which the private nursing arrangements are provided. Consequently, I have an inclination to vary the existing proposal so that the State proposition can receive some consideration.

It is pretty clear, of course, that if we provide home nursing and other aids to aged clients, which my Department has an obligation to provide, that is a far more preferable arrangement than placing people in institutions. However, it needs to be cost effective. We have taken steps to provide those arrangements on a permanent basis. I have a preference for the option of coming to an agreement with the State Government. Consequently, discussions have been held with my Department in recent times with a view to reaching an accommodation with the State, which already provides the service for community groups generally in Tasmania. I am hopeful that we will reach an agreement with the State Government to provide a service for which we will furnish the funds and it will provide the service on a much more preferable basis than has existed in the past.