House debates

Tuesday, 23 November 2021


COVID-19: South Australia

7:48 pm

Photo of Nick ChampionNick Champion (Spence, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Speaker, congratulations on your elevation to the chair.

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you.

Photo of Nick ChampionNick Champion (Spence, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The borders of South Australia were opened today, Tuesday November 23, and the South Australian government, by its own admission, is managing the introduction of travellers and, therefore, COVID into the state. We are alone among the COVID-free states of Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia in undertaking this process. Premier Marshall was down at the airport today crowing and getting emotional about scenes out of Love Actually. Of course we're all touched by people returning, by people seeing their family, sometimes after a very long time, but I'm very concerned that the government has acted prematurely. Our vaccination rate was supposed to be 80 per cent. It is actually 77 per cent today.

On ABC radio a couple of weeks ago, I raised the issue that, even though the statewide figure is 80 percent, there are many communities where the vaccination rate is much lower than that. They include the northern suburbs of Adelaide. The city of Playford's current vaccination rate for second doses is 65.4 per cent, almost 15 per cent below where it should be. The city of Salisbury's second dose rate is 72 per cent. In the district of Light and the town of Kapunda, where I grew up, the second dose rate is 64 per cent. Then there are other regional areas of the state: at Mid Murray it's 63 per cent, at Murray Bridge it's 66 per cent, Port Augusta is on 72 per cent and Port Pirie is on 74 per cent. So there are a great many areas where the vaccination rate is well below 80 per cent and, therefore, communities are very vulnerable. On that radio program, one of the government bureaucrats let slip that Elizabeth Park was, at that point, at just 40 per cent. So we have some suburbs where the vaccination rate is very low, indeed.

We also have in the northern suburbs of Adelaide at the Lyell McEwin Hospital, the hospital where I was born, a case where all day today the hospital has been under pressure and running on code white. If you went to SA Health's emergency department dashboard at 10 am, at 12 o'clock, at 1pm and at five o'clock, when the last statistics were updated, you would see that every treatment room was being used at that hospital. This has been consistent over the last year, where we have had emergency departments under pressure, without COVID and without a flu season. We have had ramping accelerate through this time and become a chronic problem nearly every day. Indeed, last night, SA Ambulance Service had an OPSTAT Red, where there were sustained impacts on the delivery of safe care. That is code for saying that there was ramping—that is, hospital emergency department car parks where there were just ambulances after ambulances, sometimes with elderly people waiting hours to get treatment. This is in the very community where the vaccination rates are still 15 per cent below where they should be for the safe opening of the state's borders. It is very concerning, indeed.

Just today in InDaily, which is an online newspaper in Adelaide, SA Health revealed that it's planning COVID quarantine camps in case of outbreaks. They are signing contracts or looking for contractors to run quarantine camps in regional areas because they are worried that Aboriginal communities and other vulnerable groups won't be able to quarantine in time. If it has been anything like SA Health's attempts to engage the community of the northern suburbs around vaccination rates, we should have great worries about their capacity to deliver. This is very concerning.

We of course hope that the opening of the borders is a successful thing, but it is really, really concerning when you've got communities in my electorate and communities I used to represent under the old boundaries of Wakefield and communities in regional South Australia where the vaccination rate levels make them extremely vulnerable to COVID outbreaks. While there have been scenes of heartfelt joy down at the Adelaide Airport today, we just have to hope there are not tragic scenes in our local hospitals and in our local communities after COVID arrives in South Australia. (Time expired)