Regional Health Services Motion – Continued | SPEECH


Continued from 24 September 2014

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 16:05 :23 ): Thank you to all those who have contributed to this debate. I value and appreciate those contributions, including those of the member for Taylor. I disagree with some of the things the member said on behalf of the government, but I value the fact that she did participate and had the courage to put those things on the record, things which, I suspect, in their hearts most members would not have actually wanted to say.

Country hospitals belong to their country communities. Sure, they are administered by the health department and by Country Health SA but, essentially, they are institutions that are the core fabric, just like schools and sporting clubs. They provide an incredibly important professional service, but at their heart they really belong to country communities. In general, centralisation across the state over the past 12 years is not improving the level of service that country people are getting, and health professionals working in country communities are telling me this themselves. This is not about trying to give doctors and nurses and all the other people who work in health in country areas a hard time; very often they are the ones coming to me and to other country members saying, ‘Can you help us with this? Can you support us? We need your support so that we can do better work. We do not want the work we do to keep getting pared down.’

Contrary to what the member for Taylor said on behalf of the government, this would not be a witch hunt and, contrary to what the member for Taylor said about my comments on the Booleroo ambulance just being a bit cute and nobody knowing what was really going on, the reality is that since then, on that particular issue, the Minister for Health has decided not to sell that ambulance. Of course, I thank him for that enormously. There was nothing cute about it; it was a terribly important issue.

There are nine hospitals in my electorate of Stuart and dozens throughout country South Australia: Port Augusta, Kapunda, Eudunda, Burra, Booleroo, Jamestown, Orroroo, Peterborough and Leigh Creek in my electorate. Then of course my constituents also access hospitals at Hawker, Quorn and Waikerie very regularly. So this is a very important issue. All these hospitals provide a vital service to constituents and locals as well as people from other parts of the state, including Adelaide, who travel to that area quite regularly. They provide a very good service, but we have to fight to keep that service as good as it can possibly be. We have to fight against a centralisation agenda that would shift resources from the country to the city. We have to work to keep it as excellent as it can possibly be, and even people working in health in the regions want us to do that.

We do value the recent investment in four significant regional hospitals in regional centres, but that cannot be at the expense of the far smaller hospitals, which also play an absolutely vital role. Without continuously improving health services in country areas we will not have significant valuable regional development. It just will not happen.

I appreciate enormously the comments from the member for Frome, the Minister for Regional Development, saying that he would not support the amendment. I think it is completely inappropriate for the government to say, back in 2011, that it would agree to have a motion just like this, an inquiry just like this, taken up by the Social Development Committee, but then refuse to allow it to go ahead—not by omission, but by deliberately thwarting it from going ahead—and then, when I ask for a select committee to look into it (because clearly that committee is having difficulty getting it onto its agenda), to be told again, ‘No, look; just trust us. We’ll send it off to the Social Development Committee and we’ll get them to do it.’ Well, Deputy Speaker, history tells me that unfortunately I cannot trust that commitment. The commitment was given before and it was not fulfilled. That is my only experience with regard to exactly this issue back in 2011 and that is why, unfortunately, I cannot and my colleagues cannot accept the amendment of the government. We want to hold to the initial motion and ask that this house establishes a select committee to look into these very important issues.

Amendment carried; motion as amended passed.