Labor’s health plan ignores the regions

Health Minister Snelling's radical health cuts plan is fatally flawed because it fails to recognise that metropolitan and regional health systems must be integrated to deliver the best health outcomes for all South Australians, according to Shadow Minister for Health, Stephen Wade.

“Labor’s city-centric view of South Australia flies in the face of the fact that, at any one time, a third of the patients in metropolitan Adelaide hospital acute beds are from the country”, Mr Wade said.

“The Weatherill Government’s plan to centralise health services in the city will diminish the services available to patients from regional areas who often rely upon outer suburban hospitals.

“The plan fails to address the chronic problems of regional access to and discharge from metropolitan hospitals – a problem which causes distress for South Australians from the regions and inefficiency in the health system as a whole.”

Dr Peter Rischbieth from the Rural Doctors Association has detailed the difficulties facing regional patients in need of bed in a metropolitan hospital:

“You might need to make three or four different phone calls to three of four different hospitals … before that person will be accepted by a doctor. Then we’ve got to go through making sure that hospital has a bed, then we’ve got to find an ambulance … And that scenario can sometimes take hours, sometimes days.” (ABC News 27/02/15)

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) submission to the Weatherill Government’s Transforming Health plan makes the critical point that South Australia’s health services can’t be improved without specific attention to the health needs of rural and remote SA. (AMA submission, p5)

As one rural practitioner notes, in Transforming Health there is no mention of any health service from a rural perspective. This suggests that the government feels that health services need not exist north of Gawler or south of Port Noarlunga. (AMA submission to Transforming Health Proposals, p7)

The Australasian Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine highlights that Transforming Health lacks discussion of country rehabilitation services noting: The fastest way to unlock capacity for rehabilitation in SA would be to increase the efficiency of the existing Country rehabilitation wards (Berri, Whyalla, Mt Gambier) and re-open the Port Lincoln rehabilitation service. (AFRM submission to Transforming Health p1).

“The State Liberals are calling on the Weatherill Government to hit the ‘reset’ button on its health plan following the wave of criticism from health professionals.  If it really wants to transform health it needs to understand that you have to transform the whole health system, including health services to South Australians in the regions,” Mr Wade said.