Thursday, 16 August 2007
Statements by Members
Rural Health Services
I rise today to talk about health care in regional Australia, and particularly in regional Wakefield, South Australia. Stephen Holmes, who has been very actively involved in the RDAA and is a GP in Clare, in the north of Wakefield, describes very passionately and accurately the demise of rural communities when health services are wound back. He uses as an example what happened in the township of Blyth when their hospital was closed down a number of years ago.
Unfortunately, there are moves around Australia to reduce services. On TV just this week on The 7.30 Report, Professor Leeder was advocating a reduction of services and further centralisation of regional health services, claiming essentially that rural people could not deliver safe health services. The RDAA certainly contests that and highlights a deal of research that shows that rural communities can in fact deliver safe health services. I am disturbed at this time to see that the South Australian government continues its program of merging hospital boards, taking elements of control away from local communities and closing things like obstetric services at the same time that we have groups like SARRAH, who represent allied health professionals; RDAA and others calling for increased services in rural communities.
At the same time, the federal government is increasing obstetric support by having additional payments to provide obstetric services in country areas. In Wakefield we are providing things like the out-of-hours services in Gawler and additional positions for doctors. There are a range of things happening to make these services more viable and effective, so I am disappointed to see actions which are closing these down.
The future of our communities is good in regional South Australia. The Adelaide Plains area around Balaklava is an example. There is a hospital there, and there is a great deal of growth in Port Wakefield, with the Wakefield Waters development. Primo have just decided to reinvest there. There is a huge potential for that area, but what people are calling for is not only things like adequate education but also adequate health. So, at a time when our communities are looking to expand, they are looking for this certainty not of having heart surgery but, the basic things like obstetrics and primary care following an emergency. Those kinds of services need to be preserved in our country hospitals so that our communities can grow and prosper as they clearly can do and wish to do. I welcome the federal government’s initiatives to support this and I call on Minister Hill in South Australia to revisit some of his thinking about downgrading rural health services.