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Thursday, 1 June 1989
Page: 3234

Senator SHEIL —by leave-I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

Although the report is very short it concerns an important issue, that is, the transfer of the nursing education function from State hospitals to the Commonwealth tertiary education system. The program, which started on the Commonwealth's initiative and was subsequently agreed to by the States, was funded by the Commonwealth. Because of the titanic nature of the program-I do not intend any pun there; it was a big program-it was decided to phase it in because of the possibility of a loss to the work force during the life of the program. The program involved not only the State hospitals but also the repatriation hospitals because they also carried out their own nursing education. In addition, the report deals with some of the numbers involved.

The program is due to be completed by 1993. A 10-year program, it started in about 1983; so we are just over halfway through. There was a long and involved process of negotiation as to how it would be funded. An agreement was reached and the Commonwealth put in $1,500 for each student nurse involved. That figure was indexed so that as costs went up the subsidy would be sufficient. By the time the program is completed about 18,000 nurses will have been trained under it. As I have said, all the States are in agreement.

The Commonwealth was presented with a very vexed question because of the changing rule of nurses in society. I think everyone has come to realise that the Commonwealth Government took a rather enlightened role as to the changing nature of nursing. Instead of just being practical people looking after patients, nurses had to become practitioners. One of the great concerns was that if all nurses had a tertiary education qualification we would have all chiefs and no indians looking after the patients. Indeed, that could even be a concern today, and that is the point I wish to make. Many nurses do not require training to the tertiary level. The type of nurses to whom I refer are those in nursing homes and hostels who do not need the degree of training that is required under this scheme. Many nurses will be quite prepared to do that sort of work, as the number of patients increase, without going to this degree of training. If nurses need training in ordinary general nursing, by all means that training should be available to them. That should also apply to other forms of nursing because not all nurses have to be part of the transfer from the State-based system to the tertiary education system.

Question resolved in the affirmative.