Petition reaches parliament
Tuesday, 23rd August, 2011
By Andrew Robertson
The most heavily supported petition in Broken Hill’s history was tabled in federal parliament yesterday.
But it could be months before residents get a response from the government about concerns surrounding the relocation of the city’s elderly and the impact frail aged patients are having on the hospital.
The petition calls for an end to the elderly having to be sent to aged care facilities outside Broken Hill and was signed by 9260 people, or almost half the city’s population.
A spokesman for federal MP Sussan Ley told the BDT yesterday the petition was presented to the Petitions Committee a little after 10am.
“From here it goes through the parliamentary process; it goes to the minister responsible and he has a three month period to decide what to do,” she said.
A spokeswoman for the Petitions Committee warned against expecting a quick response from the minister, Mark Butler.
“The Minister for Health and Aging probably gets the most referrals,” she said.
When he does finally respond no-one will be keener to hear what he has to say than former local Eve Misan and her mother Poppy Garner.
The two started the petition earlier this year after the health service said it would have to begin relocating some of its frail aged patients because of the pressure they were putting on the service.
At the time up to 18 of the 80 beds in the hospital were believed to be occupied by frail aged patients.
Far West health District CEO, Stuart Riley, said elderly patients who did not require acute care and could not be housed in aged care locally could be sent to facilities in Wilcannia, Wentworth and Balranald.
Despite the situation, just one patient has been sent to Wilcannia, but returned within days after an opening came up at Southern Cross care home.
Mr Butler, in a response to local concerns, failed to outline any solution to the situation at the hospital, which a visiting locum physician described as a disaster.
Dr Brian Senewiratne said the use of hospital beds for elderly patients who were awaiting aged care places was putting lives at risk.
Last month a proposal was put forward that would involve the transfer of 40 aged care licenes from Shorty O’Neil Village to a new purpose-built facility.
Under the plan, flagged by City Council and Southern Cross care, an additional 20 licences would be sought from the federal government.
Council’s general manager, Frank Zaknich, said the proposal would address the medium to long term aged care accommodation needs of the city.
The petition also requested the population figure used as the basis for providing funding for Broken Hill be corrected.
“This is a remarkable accomplishment,” Eve Misan said before the petition was tabled.
“The voice of the people of Broken Hill will be heard in Canberra.”