My matter is for the Attorney-General.
It follows an exchange I had with the former Attorney-General, Ms Hennessy (a very cordial and well-meaning exchange, I might add) on the subject of guardianship arrangements for hospital patients.
As the first part of that, in an adjournment matter in August 2019, I raised quite a number of points on this topic.
In particular, I spoke of the extraordinary delays (sometimes, months’ worth of delays) associated with quite a large number of cases where patients were ready for discharge from hospital but also needed to have a guardian appointed to them to help oversee their future care and wellbeing.
These delays also then have many compounding effects, including creating many logistical and financial pressures for the hospital; considerable frustration and despair for the patient; and adverse ramifications for incoming patients also needing a hospital bed.
In Ms Hennessy’s reply, she noted the Government had recently made various funding announcements and changes that she believed were helping to resolve these issues. These included new funding to the Office of the Public Advocate; the passage of the Guardianship and Administration Act; and the introduction of VCAT’s ‘Guardianship Hub’.
Unfortunately, however, I now need to raise some similar issues again and request the new Attorney-General’s advice and assistance on them.
I say “unfortunately” because, in Northern Victoria, it seems that (as well-intentioned as those actions referenced by Ms Hennessy appeared to be) there are broadly the same range of problems still being experienced on the ground nearly 18 months later.
It has repeatedly been brought to my attention recently, especially by one major hospital, that there has really been no change to these longstanding difficulties.
Now, it may be that the Victorian medical system has been so impacted by the advent of COVID over the past year that this has adversely affected the progress of potential improvements to guardianship arrangements, too. I would have thought, however, that (if anything) expediting the departures from hospital of this class of patients might have become an even more urgent concern. Especially in the early COVID months when the talk was of a preoccupation with ‘flattening the curve’ and overwhelmingly prioritising the use of hospital beds for COVID patients.
The action I therefore seek is an outline of what actions are being (or will be) taken by the Government to address the ongoing difficulties that are continuing to be experienced in respect of patients needing
guardians – especially to reduce the average time between VCAT guardianship lodgements and allocations.