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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 4615 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

introduced by the current Leader of the Opposition, Mr Smyth-required aged-care providers to pay more for land than they previously did.

Because of this we are seeing increased concerns amongst community aged-care providers about their capacity to access land in terms of paying for it. As a result, I have recently indicated that the government is undertaking a review of the charging policy for land allocated through the direct grant process. We do recognise that the cost of purchasing land for a not-for-profit aged-care provider has gone up significantly because of the policy introduced by the previous government. The ACT government also wants to work collaboratively with the Commonwealth to ensure that benchmarks used by the Commonwealth to allocate aged-care places are adequate enough to meet community needs.

The government has taken a number of other significant steps to improve residential aged care. For example, in negotiating the Australian health-care agreements, the ACT government has secured agreement with the Commonwealth to use 50 provisional high-care places to provide transitional care to enable people in ACT hospitals waiting for permanent residential aged-care places to be cared for in more appropriate settings.

These places should improve both the quality of life and care for people waiting for permanent places, and ACT Health is currently in negotiation with the Commonwealth to implement this proposal-a first for the ACT and Australia. It creates an additional 50 beds that would otherwise be sitting for a period of time until they became operational.

The government has also acted to appoint a residential aged-care liaison officer to work with aged-care providers as a means to improve the referral process to residential aged-care services. This is meant to be a single point of contact for carers and individuals themselves seeking residential aged care instead of having to phone and talk to many different aged-care providers. This is a two-year pilot program and the nurse has been effective to date in liaising with aged-care providers in developing positive working relationships across the hospital and in the community-care sector.

I also want to address some other issues raised in relation to residential aged care by Mr Cornwell, including the issue of employment in nursing homes and employment standards. Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker, there is a work force issue. Yes, we are seeing nurses working in private residential aged-care facilities being paid less than their counterparts in hospitals.

Last time I looked, the ACT government did not employ any of these people. For that reason, to suggest that is the ACT government's responsibility to ensure that they get better wages and conditions by some magical clicking of the fingers and tapping of the heels is both unrealistic and, indeed, naive. The reality is these are private employment relationships between the nurses and those private aged care facility operators. The government supports calls by the Australian Nursing Federation to improve the level of payment to nurses in that sector, but it is not a sector that the ACT government employs nurses directly in.

The ACT government has also worked hard through the home and community care program to provide further assistance to people who are living in their own homes and

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