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Thursday, 15 June 1989
Page: 4179

Senator PATTERSON(10.27) —In my movement around nursing homes in Victoria one thing that has concerned me has been the fact that funding for nursing home residents is on the basis that the day the resident goes into the nursing home is counted as one day and the day the resident goes out of the nursing home is counted as the same day the resident went in. If the resident dies there is no funding for the resident on that day. Many nursing homes are so strapped for funds that they rush a new resident into a bed the day a patient has left that bed, that is, the day the patient has died. It was brought to my attention in a small town I visited recently that a man in a nursing home there had died and his sister was put into a bed in the same home that afternoon. Because the nursing home staff found it so distasteful they shifted all the patients around so that the woman did not have to go into her deceased brother's bed.

I ask the Minister whether it would be possible for residents to be funded for the day they go into the nursing home and the day they go out of the nursing home if they die. It does not leave the staff of the nursing home time to grieve, especially if they have been nursing the patient for 10, 11, 12 or 15 years. It is another example of the callous way nursing home residents are being dealt with. The Minister said in one of his speeches that what we are really on about is the quality of outcome and the quality of life. I agree that they should be goals. But if we are so mean we cannot fund a resident for the day he dies, there is something wrong with the system. When we were debating changes to nursing homes and their funding, Opposition senators drew attention to the fact that there would be serious problems in the nursing home industry because of current changes.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! It being 10.30 p.m., under sessional order I put the question.

That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.

Question resolved in the negative.

Senator PATTERSON —I draw the Minister's attention to a report which will appear tomorrow, commissioned by the Victorian Age Services Peak Council, which confirms the fears that the standard of nursing homes and quality of life will have fallen in many nursing homes. The report makes the points that working conditions for nurses and other staff are pressured, causing stresses in the system and explosive industrial relations implications; that communications with residents and their relatives have worsened due to a rushed atmosphere in many homes. The Minister has just told the Committee tonight that what he is on about and what Minister Staples is on about is quality of outcome and the quality of life. We have here a situation where patients die in nursing homes and their beds are filled before the bed is cold, with no time for staff to grieve or to deal with the situation. What we shall see now, because of the change in funding, is a rushed atmosphere in many nursing homes where nobody talks to a patient about being afraid to die, or about the fact that their daughter has died or that there is something wrong with somebody in their family. The staff do not have time to cope with those matters any more. The report also shows that activities for residents are being cut back to medical and nursing necessities, so that there is no time for any extras, and that building and equipment maintenance is also suffering.

The Minister for Housing and Aged Care (Mr Staples), in a statement on 3 May, said that the new arrangements being progressively introduced were based on the needs of residents. I cannot believe that the Minister can now hold to the view that arrangements which are being progressively introduced are based on the needs of residents. We see what is happening and we predicted that the position would worsen, and I predict that it will become even worse. The study which has been carried out on 27 Victorian nursing homes-more Victorian nursing homes than the Department has visited-has shown in both the private and voluntary sector that this Government's arrangement for the funding of nursing homes is failing. This will affect, and indeed is affecting, older people who deserve a better deal. It is affecting the industry as a whole. In recent years geriatric nursing has become much more acceptable, but with the changes that are occurring leading to a lowering of standards nurses will flee geriatric nursing. I believe that this Government has a lot to answer for. I hope that the Minister will have a response to the report I have mentioned, which is an indictment of this Government's treatment of elderly people, particularly elderly Victorians.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Supported Accommodation Assistance Bill agreed to.


The Bill.