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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 6 Hansard (14 June) . . Page.. 1727 ..

Questions without notice

Aged care facilities

MR STANHOPE: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services. The minister conceded in answer to my question yesterday that the use of hospital beds for people who would be better placed in a nursing home has been, and is, a significant problem for the Canberra Hospital. His response was that to clear the 19 hospital beds occupied by nursing home patients would in itself resolve the workload crisis facing the hospital.

If, as the minister says, this is the case, can he advise the Assembly why he had not acted on this problem earlier? Whilst this may resolve the hospital's immediate problems, can the minister explain what it does in relation to the issue of the adequacy of aged care facilities in the ACT generally?

The hospital's difficulties in this area are only one aspect of the aged care crisis in Canberra. Would the minister explain why he has allowed the problem to develop to the stage it has, what he has done about the problem and, specifically, what approaches he has made to the Commonwealth for improved aged care funding and facilities for the ACT?

MR MOORE: Mr Speaker, I greatly appreciate the series of questions that Mr Stanhope has asked me because I considered having them asked as a dorothy dixer. Taking the last question first, the Chief Minister and I met with Dr Wooldridge early last week in order to raise this and some other issues with him and to emphasise our concern about where we were up to with nursing home beds. As you know, it is a federal government responsibility. But we also can see the need for us to continue to push it. The Chief Minister's office is now following up and organising a meeting with Bronwyn Bishop, the minister specifically responsible for this. I do not know where we are up to with that. We will be meeting with her I think on Monday next week. So we do consider this seriously and we have been working on it.

But there are a series of other things that have been happening. I have had the department, specifically at my request, approaching nursing homes and asking them: do they have beds available? When will they be available? Do they have extra room? Is there a way that we can coordinate with the federal government to get it?

We are not asking the federal government to go beyond what is our entitlement. It would be unfair for us to do that, because they work across Australia and we have a certain entitlement. We do not have available the number of beds that we are actually entitled to, so we want to make sure that we deliver within those areas.

So we have taken this very seriously, Mr Stanhope. Along with other strategies for making sure that bed blocks in the hospital do not occur, we are working very hard, but particularly on this area of nursing home beds, because if we can clear a number of those beds it will assist us in managing this issue.

I think it is worth understanding that this same issue is causing difficulties for health ministers right across Australia. At the health ministers conference-I think it must have been about March-the South Australian minister, for example, was saying that they had

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