Legislative Council: Wednesday, July 03, 2019


Community Health Services

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (14:49): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Health and Wellbeing regarding community health services.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: In my work as the Premier's Advocate for Suicide Prevention, as well as my many years of involvement in community networks before holding that position, I have seen the difference that support in the community can make to patients and their families. Will the minister update the council on the reform of health services to deliver more care in the community?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:49): I thank the honourable member for his question. Public health systems around Australia have seen steadily rising demand over the past decade, bringing additional challenges to services that are already responding to the increasing proportion of the population aged over 65. In South Australia, these increasing demands are exacerbated by the former Labor government's mismanagement of the health system, particularly their disastrous Transforming Health experiment.

The Marshall Liberal government is determined to improve the delivery of services. This is a large and complex task. We are responding with a range of measures. In strategic terms, we are reforming health governance to drive accountability, engage clinicians and consumers, and return decision-making to a local level. But as the honourable member highlights, community initiatives will be fundamental to rebalancing the health system. Yesterday, I was delighted to announce one such initiative: the rollout of a new mobile radiology service in Adelaide's southern suburbs.

This trial program will mean that residents of nursing homes will be able to receive X-rays in their nursing home rather than needing to be transported to their nearest hospital. This is clearly beneficial to elderly patients who will not need to be transported to hospital and who will receive this service with no out-of-pocket charges. It will also help ease the pressure on the hospitals themselves. Although the initiative is a trial, it is estimated that, if fully rolled out, it could potentially reduce the number of ED presentations from nursing homes by more than 1,700 per year.

To put this in raw dollar terms, although the patient won't have any out-of-pocket costs, the costs of delivering the mobile X-ray service will be approximately $100 per image. On the other hand, if a resident of a nursing home is directed to the hospital for the X-ray, then the cost, including ambulance transfers, would be around $1,800. Mobile imaging avoids this cost but also eases pressure on the broader system. Ambulances are freed up from these transfers and become available for other work.

During the trial period, the mobile X-ray service will be based at the Repat site and provide around seven appointments daily from Monday through to Friday. The service will focus on residents who are clinically stable and, although they require an X-ray, do not require an urgent ambulance transfer to an emergency department. The types of general X-rays that can be performed by the mobile service include chest and thoracic, abdominal, spine, hips and pelvis, upper and lower limbs, and facial bones.

The images and reports produced through this service will be available to clinicians through the same process as if they were done at a hospital site, ensuring appropriate care is maintained. The service will be staffed by a South Australian Medical Imaging (SAMI) radiographer and a SAMI nurse, ensuring quality clinical services on the ground. I look forward to seeing the outcomes of this trial. Our commitment is to develop quality of care to residents in the southern suburbs, including those who are residing in nursing homes.