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John Howard abandons rural nursing homes.

John Howard Abandons Rural Nursing Homes

 

Chris Evans - Shadow Minister for Family Services and the Aged

 

Media Statement - 18 February 2000

 

The Productivity Commission report, released today provides further evidence that John Howard's Government has failed older Australians in rural and remote areas.

 

"The Productivity Commission Report on Government Services shows the continuing decline in aged care services in country areas under John Howard," said Senator Chris Evans, Shadow Minister for Family Services and the Aged.

 

"Older Australians in rural and remote regions now face long waits to get into a nursing home bed.

 

"Over the last two years waiting times for nursing homes in the country have jumped alarmingly, from an average of 55 days to 75 days.

 

"For a growing number of people this means long times spent in public hospitals. In 1997-98 older Australians spent 1.14 million days in public hospitals waiting for a nursing home bed. The Productivity Commission report recognises that many of those people are in rural and remote areas where nursing home beds are scarce.

 

"The lengthening waiting times reflect the failure of the Government to increase nursing home bed numbers in line with the ageing population, the ratio of beds has now reached an all time low."

 

• In rural areas there are now only 77 aged care beds per 1000 people aged 70 and over.

• In remote areas there are only 66 aged care beds per 1000 people aged 70 and over.

• The Government's own target is 90 beds per 1000 people aged 70 and over.

 

These figures provide proof of the severe shortage of nursing home beds in the bush.

 

"The Government has known about this problem since 1998 when an Audit Office report identified the growing shortfall in rural nursing home beds.

 

"The Government was then given another reminder of the problem in January 1999, when a Productivity Commission inquiry found that Commonwealth funding for rural nursing homes was 'inadequate'. That inquiry recommended an increase in funding to rural and remote nursing homes to cover the additional costs they face in providing care to older Australians.

 

"The Minister for Aged Care, Bronwyn Bishop, has rejected the findings of that independent inquiry and has refused to increase Commonwealth support for rural aged care.

 

"The Government must act immediately to repair the damage it has done to rural nursing homes.

 

Authorised by Gary Gray, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.