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Tuesday, 2 May 1989
Page: 1560


Senator HARRADINE —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. Is the Minister aware of the concerns being expressed in a number of quarters in Tasmania at the possible transfer of the Repatriation General Hospital into the State hospital system in such a way that it would lose its identity and original purpose? Is the Minister in a position to give any guarantees that such will not be the case and that the Repatriation General Hospital will remain with its own identity and its original purpose?


Senator ROBERT RAY —I do have some information on what has occurred that may assist Senator Harradine in parts of his question, but perhaps not all of it. There have been a variety of concerns expressed by the Hospital Employees Federation of Australia and others regarding negotiations with the Tasmanian Government on the transfer of the Repatriation General Hospital into the State health care system.

No agreement has been reached on any rationalisation proposal between the Royal Hobart Hospital and the Repatriation General Hospital. What has been agreed at the Commonwealth-Tasmanian standing committee meeting is a draft concept for rationalisation projects. Since the meeting, the draft concept has been rigorously analysed and investigated. The proposal involved the Royal Hobart Hospital undertaking major surgery for the Repatriation General Hospital and the Repatriation General Hospital providing day surgery and eye surgery facilities for the Royal Hobart. The Repatriation General Hospital (RGH) would still undertake orthopaedic and neurology surgery, medical care, aged and extended care and rehabilitation. The rehabilitation unit would be a joint Royal-RGH activity. The concept discussed on 28 February at the standing committee meeting was also discussed on the previous day with representatives of staff associations, hospital staff, and ex-service organisations. Details of the proposal were again set out for staff in a memorandum dated 28 March from the Department's Deputy Commissioner in Tasmania to all RGH staff on the transfer and rationalisation of the RGH.

As a result of the discussions and the memorandum, input was received from staff associations and changes were made to the original concept. The proposed concept has been examined and analysed, with respect to the general siting arrangements at the RGH and the feasibility of the proposed treatment mix, but there is still much work to be done on funding arrangements for veteran patients at the Royal and community patients at the RGH. There is also further work to be done on staffing arrangements for the proposed rationalisation concept.

On 11 May in Hobart progress made in investigations will be reported and discussed with staff associations, hospital staff and ex-service organisations. Once the concept is a workable plan, detailed consultations will begin with unions and ex-service organisations prior to any final agreement being reached.

In summary, let me repeat: no decisions have been taken on the rationalisation concept as discussed at the standing committee meeting in February, nor will there be any until detailed consultation has taken place with the staff associations, hospital staff and ex-service organisations. Members will be well aware that the Government guarantees to staff and ex-service organisations, relating to the transfer to the RGH, that there is no intention whatsoever to renege on these undertakings. I think the honourable senator also asked for a guarantee that everything would stay as it was. I think the flow of my answer suggests that that will not be the case. The parties are looking for a rationalisation, but one which is gained by a consensus approach of the staff associations and ex-service organisations.