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Friday, 5 May 1989
Page: 1944

(Question No. 458)


Senator Jones asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Aged Care, upon notice, on 24 August 1988:

(1) What standards of safety apply to nursing homes, hospitals catering for veterans and day care centres for families and children that are in whole or part financed by the Federal Government.

(2) What is the level of funding in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory for such safety precautions in the institutions outlined in (1).

(3) What is the financial level of assistance to the 6 States for safety precautions in the institutions outlined in (1).

(4) What monitoring programs has the Federal Government in place to police the strict maintenance of safety standards.


Senator Cook —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) The Commonwealth Government expects nursing homes to provide a safe environment for residents, staff and visitors. This requirement is one of thirty-one standards stated in ``Living in a Nursing Home: Outcome Standards for Australian Nursing Homes''. This publication specifies quality of life and care outcomes for nursing home residents. Nursing home standards monitoring teams focus on the achievement of the outcome, that is, that residents are safe, rather than the mere presence of inputs or processes relating to safety.

The legal basis for the safety requirement is stated in Special Gazette No. S303 ``National Health Act 1953-Section 45d: Standards for Nursing Home Care'', Standard No. 6, which states:

``The nursing home design, equipment and practices will adequately protect the physical safety and security of residents and their belongings.''

In practice, standards monitoring teams expect homes to comply with relevant safety legislation, regulations and/or requirements and to demonstrate a good safety record.

Safety standards for day care centres are the responsibility of State Governments and are determined and monitored by State licensing bodies in conjunction with other bodies such as the Board of Fire Commissioners. State bodies responsible for licensing of child care centres are as follows:

New South Wales:

Department of Family & Community Services

PO Box 228

Parramatta NSW 2150

Victoria:

Department of Community Services

13th Floor,

55 Swanston Street

Melbourne Vic 3000

Queensland:

Department of Children's Services

PO Box 806

Brisbane Qld 4001

South Australia:

Children's Services Office

GPO Box 2557

Adelaide SA 5000

*Western Australia:

Department of Community Services

189 Royal Street

East Perth WA 6000

Tasmania:

Department for Community Welfare

GPO Box 125b

Hobart Tas. 7001

Northern Territory:

Department of Community Development

GPO Box 1197

Darwin NT 5794

Australian Capital Territory

ACT Administration

PO Box 158

Canberra ACT 2600

The Minister for Veterans' Affairs has provided the following information in respect of hospitals catering for veterans, and day care centres.

The Repatriation Commission ensures that Repatriation General Hospitals (RGHs), Repatriation Auxiliary Hospitals, the Anzac Hostel and the Repatriation Artificial Limb and Appliance Centres maintain all Commonwealth, State and local standards that promote a safe environment for patients and visitors. These standards are also followed in the day care centres operating in RGHs. For staff working in these institutions, the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) has occupational health and safety programs. Procedures are also aligned with those set by the Australian Council of Hospital Standards.

Although the Commission does not operate any nursing homes, social workers at the RGHs ensure that privately-operated nursing homes that receive Repatriation patients meet Department of Community Services and Health requirements.

In regard to day care centres part financed by the DVA, occupational therapists from RGHs ensure that operating organisations adhere to the required safety standards.

(2) Nursing homes are not specifically funded to meet safety standards. They are provided a standard grant per resident to provide for basic infrastructure services within the nursing home (for example, food, rent, maintenance). The service provider must decide how to spend this income to meet, among other things, the safety requirements for residents, staff, equipment and building.

Funding for child care services under the Commonwealth's Children's Services Program is conditional on the service being licensed by the relevant authority.

(3) State Governments receive nursing home benefits for each resident accommodated in a State Government nursing home. It is the responsibility of the State Government and the nursing home administrators to allocate their budget to meet safety requirements.

Capital grants under the Children's Services Program are based on the actual cost of the project and as such will cover the variety of physical safety requirements directly associated with the building housing the service.

(4) The nursing home safety standards are monitored by standards monitoring teams, which visit homes at least annually. Where these teams find non-compliance with any standards, including safety standards, they negotiate with service providers to ensure that these standards are met. Where serious and/or persistent non-compliance occurs, the Commonwealth Government, as well as the State Government as appropriate, can invoke powers against the nursing home proprietors. In general, negotiation with service providers is conducted on a cooperative basis to ensure a positive address of non-compliance.

Commonwealth recurrent funding is not directed specifically toward meeting safety requirements. The Commonwealth provides a contribution to operational costs which assists services to meet licensing requirements. Other Commonwealth funds are attracted through fee relief subsidies for low to moderate income families.