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Tuesday, 20 November 1973
Page: 3561

Mr GILES (Angas) - I believe that the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) wants to speak for a few minutes, so I shall not take my full time to allow him the opportunity to speak. The matter to which I wish to refer tonight is, I suppose, not unknown to honourable members from the various electorates around Australia. I refer to the position of country hospitals. In this case, the hospital to which I wish to refer is the Barmera District Hospital. It has the advantage, according to some, or perhaps the disadvantage, according to others, of having around it the Gerard Aboriginal Mission. Furthermore it has living around it in that area many of what I might call civilian, non-reserve type Aboriginal families who are highly thought of and respected in the community. The Barmera Hospital has to cope with both of the groups I have mentioned and, furthermore, must cope with itinerant Aborigines coming in from further afield. Of course, the hospital is subject to the charter of country hospitals which is currently laid down in the State of South Australia.

The sort of problem experienced at present by the Barmera Hospital is well highlighted by the following facts: It is a hospital of 40 available beds. Its average daily occupancy rate between 30 June and 31 October of this year was 35.17 which, as honourable members will see, is a very high occupancy rate. Of this average, 5.51 is accounted for by Aborigines. In relation to the total number of Aborigines in that area, it means that one Aborigine out of every 30 in the area is in that hospital every day. As the daily average of Aborigines has increased from 3.05 last year to 5.51 for the first 4 months of this year, the hospital has a problem because of non-payment of hospital dues. It is fair to say that this hospital has worked very hard to try to make sure that all Aborigines who are admitted to the hospital are properly signed up in regard to their hospital benefits but in spite of this there exists a tremendous problem in terms of the amounts of money owing over quite a period of time.

I provided the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant) with full documentation of this case and his Department wrote - I think the liles will show that it was back in September - to the Barmera Hospital stating that the Department was most interested in looking at this case to see whether the amount of money owing, which at this stage is in the region of $8,000, spreading over more than a year, could be repayable by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs as a special grant to that country hospital. I mention this tonight because there has been a little lapse of time and for this reason I have handed the Minister the files tonight. Secondly, I want to put before the House what must be a problem that affects hospitals in many parts of Australia today. If the Government can make up this amount of money to a hospital in a country area - in this case, a brand new one built by the South Australian Government - under a form of rating to help repayable loans in that area, then it would be less of a handicap on the district as a whole and would be some small gesture towards attracting first class facilities into country areas, such as this area of Barmera. I hope the Minister in this House who represents the

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is able to successfully meet the request on proper consideration after studying the files I have handed over to him today.

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