Health Care (Administration) Amendment Bill

Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (12:52): I rise to follow on from the member for Morphett. I have some real concerns when it comes to individuals who put in countless hours in providing health care and services, particularly in the regions. Of course, I rise to speak about what I am experiencing in the electorate of Chaffey—the Riverland and the Mallee.

Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (12:52): I rise to follow on from the member for Morphett. I have some real concerns when it comes to individuals who put in countless hours in providing health care and services, particularly in the regions. Of course, I rise to speak about what I am experiencing in the electorate of Chaffey—the Riverland and the Mallee.

 

One of the examples is the local health advisory councils (known as HACs). Regional communities, over many years, have expended significant time and effort, particularly fundraising for local hospitals and maintenance upgrades. What we have seen over a number of years is great infrastructure upgrades in those hospitals which have been achieved by the community, where they have gone out fundraising.

A lot of money has been bequeathed to those hospitals not only for the benefit of the hospital but also, inevitably, for the benefit of the community. It is for the benefit of incoming patients to have hospitals with those extra services that have been provided by what I guess you would call auxiliary groups which fundraise for the hospital.

Of course, we cannot forget the service clubs, because they are invaluable, with their contribution particularly to the local hospitals in my electorate. As we speak, they are out there doing their bit. Whether it is a sausage sizzle or a raffle or producing calendars to raise money, it really does have a significant impact on what can be achieved for the hospital.

Unfortunately, in what is more than the last few months, we have seen the unfortunate move by this current Weatherill government to place restrictions on HACs being able to access the millions of dollars that have been fundraised, hard earned or bequeathed to put towards assets within a hospital. I understand that, in some cases, people's priorities are perhaps not a preferred priority on what needs to be upgraded at a hospital or what money needs to be put forward.

Recently, I had the Hon. Rob Lucas from another place up in my electorate having a look around. We went to several hospitals and looked at what had been achieved with those funds. It is an outstanding achievement to see that we have, in some cases, almost a new wing on hospitals which has been supplied by the money that has come out of the community's pocket.

Again, what we are seeing is that these restrictions are now putting on hold those hard-earned fundraising dollars. The local HACs have been told that only new money raised, particularly in the 2012-13 financial year, can be spent and previous money remains in the government coffers. As I understand it, that money that has been raised in the 2012-13 financial year is not something for when we do upgrades in a hospital like it was just decided today to spend the money and tomorrow it is achieved. It takes a lot of planning, it takes the regulation that it has to go through, and it just cannot be achieved overnight. That money that is sitting there is sitting there to stump up this current government's budget.

I noted during estimates this year that minister Snelling admitted that the HAC money is being used to prop up a cash strapped Labor government budget. That is sending a message to the communities, it is sending a message to the people who are there in a position who want to be part of putting money aside to upgrade hospitals. It is sending a message to them to the effect of, 'Don't do it.' It is sending a message to the community, why fundraise? The government is going to just hold that money back to make themselves look better at the budget bottom line but we are not getting any benefit.

I have talked to the community volunteers, the HACs and people who have spent a lot of their latter stage of life in hospital, and they are saying, 'We are not prepared to put the money towards the hospital because we don't even know whether that money will end up benefitting the hospital or whether it might end up benefitting my children or my grandchildren or further on.' It really is sending out a bad message that the community is being disengaged, if you like, from helping that hospital.

Particularly the elderly I have visited in the hospitals say that they have considered leaving money to the hospital but that they have decided not to because there is no certainty that money will be of benefit.

Again, communities feel as though they are losing their sense of ownership over local country hospitals due to poor decisions from this current government. It is a sad indictment that this money is sitting there in a budget bottom line for the government and it is not there for the benefit of the hospital. We see hospital upgrades that are needed all the time. We see centralisation of country hospitals due to the numbers dwindling away in our country communities, and yet there is money there to benefit the hospitals, there is money there for the ongoing benefit of the communities, but that money is being held in a budget bottom line by the current government.

It is a sad indictment, it is a sad indication, and it is a disincentive for people to engage and be part of making our community and our regional hospitals better places to visit, to have medical treatment and better places to be ready for the incoming sick and vulnerable who need the hospital.

In closing, I have said on a number of occasions that I have been a part of fundraising to put chairs in a chemotherapy unit. I have looked at some of the forward planning with the upgrade of the regional hospital in the Riverland and there was a chemotherapy unit there ready to go, but we have had a budget cutback on that upgrade of the hospital from $41 million to $36 million and suddenly we find that the chemotherapy unit does not have any chairs. It does not have the equipment that completes a chemotherapy unit. I think that is an example of what we are seeing at the moment. We are seeing funds being directed away from services that are needed in a hospital and the government is leaning on the volunteers and the community spirit to help progress the development of their hospitals and to help progress services that we all expect to have in our hospitals. With that, I conclude my contribution.

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