Thursday, 28 October 2010
Barker Electorate: Keith Hospital
I continue to raise an issue which is red-hot in my electorate of Barker. It relates to the area I come from, Keith, and it is the issue of the Keith hospital. If nothing is done about the Labor state government’s threat to cut funding by $360,000, the Keith hospital will close. It will close within nine months if the funding is not at least kept at parity. If it does close, there will not be a hospital for 200 kilometres between Bordertown and Murray Bridge—basically from the Victorian border to not far from Adelaide. I think the locals are talking about erecting signs just where you leave Bordertown and Murray Bridge that say ‘Please do not get sick because there won’t be another hospital for 200 kilometres.’ Not only will you have to not get sick, but road crash victims will have to be transferred much further to be treated if their accident occurs near Keith, because there will no longer be an accident emergency facility between Tailem Bend and Bordertown or between Tailem Bend and Naracoorte. This would an absolute disgrace if it were allowed to occur.
Some 30 per cent of South Australian road fatalities occur on this stretch of highway, known as the Dukes Highway, which is another reason that the government should be making sure we have a hospital. They should also be funding a dual carriageway for the Dukes Highway. During the election campaign they resisted that idea, but I am very committed to getting a dual carriageway between Tailem Bend and the Victorian border. The Keith hospital is also the most distant hospital from which a rescue helicopter can retrieve patients without having to refuel on the way back to the Royal Adelaide Hospital. With the Dukes Highway running right by Keith, this is very worrying.
I have listed many of the concerns about the possible closure of the Keith hospital and I am not alone in being concerned. The township of Keith has given a remarkable display of what I love about rural towns and togetherness. There were 1,200 people present at the community meeting held last week in Keith. For a township with a population not much more than that, you can well imagine that literally the whole town turned up. I really think this is testament to what the closure of this hospital would mean to the town.
There was a rally in Adelaide yesterday at which a lot of people from Keith joined with the people trying to save the Moonta and Ardrossan hospitals. In addition, some Keith boys are doing their bit to raise awareness. Six youths cycled and jogged for the cause—Ryan Bartlett, Tom Geyer, Lewis Hender and Andrew Cousins are completing the 237-kilometre journey on foot with two younger friends riding beside them. This is the sort of commitment and community spirit that comes from country towns—they all get together and support each other. A Facebook group has been created in a very short time. Its name is Save the Keith hospital and it currently has 1,548 members and that number is growing daily. A petition has also been created with many signatures being added all the time.
If the hospital closes its doors the aged-care beds will also be lost. Currently that would mean that 18 aged-care patients would be homeless. The hospital currently provides an important aged-care service to the community which means that aged-care patients can stay in their local community with their family close by. Once the hospital closes, aged-care patients will have to be moved to areas up to 140 kilometres away, far from their family and the community they were involved in. This will mean additional stress on families, often farming families that plan their lives around the farm and find it near impossible to leave due to their commitments.
Labor went to the 2007 with promises of health reform but produced nothing. They went to the 2010 election promising health reform and Australia believed them. Well, Australia is sadly mistaken. Here we are now and they are making more empty promises that will amount to nothing. Labor cannot be allowed to fool people with their legislation or to lead people to believe it will reduce the time they wait at the doctor’s office or that it will help their community expand its health services. We need to save Keith hospital. (Time expired)