Surplus ‘stolen’ from disabled: minister
QUEENSLAND Health Minister Steven Miles has hit out at Treasurer Josh Frydenberg's budget, accusing him of "stealing" $1.6 billion of his forecast surplus from people with disabilities.
Mr Miles said that by "cruel design or by incompetence", Mr Frydenberg had used underspending by the National Disability Insurance Scheme to fill his government's "budget black hole".
"He has taken their accommodation, their wheelchairs, their nursing care to prop up his budget," the minister said.
Mr Miles has been negotiating with the Federal Government over nursing care for 38 profoundly disabled residents of the Halwyn Centre, in Brisbane's inner-city Red Hill, since the Metro North Hospital and Health Service announced in January it would close.
The centre, built in 1979, has been rejected by the NDIA as a specialist disability accommodation provider. But a tug of war continues between Queensland Health and the NDIA over which entity is responsible for providing 24/7 nursing care for the severely physically and intellectually impaired Halwyn residents once new accommodation is found.
Mr Miles said for Mr Frydenberg to use funds earmarked for the disabled to improve his budget's bottom line was "nothing short of heartbreaking".
The minister said about 400 people with disabilities were taking up Queensland public hospital beds as they waited for an NDIS package, around 250 of them in southeast Queensland.
"Many NDIS participants in hospitals continue to experience discharge delays as a result of NDIS approval and planning processes," Mr Miles said.
A recent case study included in an Australian Health Minister Advisory Council briefing paper involved a woman who spent more than 300 "excess" days in hospital, because her NDIS plan did not provide funding for home ventilation or tracheotomy care.
In another case, the NDIS rejected a request to fund a Queensland child's "interim" prosthetic limb against medical advice that he needed it for rehabilitation. As a result, the hospital funded the limb to allow the boy to be discharged and return to his community.
With hundreds of potential Queensland NDIS participants taking up hospital beds unnecessarily, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk wrote to Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week amid the southeast Queensland emergency department crisis.
To ease pressure on southeast Queensland hospitals, she called on Mr Morrison to expedite NDIS packages for Queenslanders occupying public hospital beds who are ready for discharge but "have nowhere else to go".
"It is critical that the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) find alternative accommodation for these patients as a matter of urgency so these beds can be freed up," the Premier wrote.
She said Queensland was spending $500,000 a day caring for the 400 Queenslanders in public hospitals awaiting NDIS packages and another 250 elderly people in hospitals while they wait for an aged care place.