Legislative Council: Tuesday, February 20, 2024


Regional Health Services

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (14:55): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development about regional health care.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.S. LEE: As reported by an article from InDaily on 16 February, titled 'Calls for regional healthcare funding as life expectancy gap remains', the National Rural Health Alliance has called for more funding for regional health care in South Australia. NRHA Chief Executive, Susi Tegen, said funding from the government is 'still very much often city-centric' and, 'The funding models of the government do not match what is needed at a local level.'

This followed an announcement of the recipients of the Innovative Models of Care Program by Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, on 7 February, where none—none—of the recipients were from South Australia. Regional communities are very concerned about the lack of focus by the state government on addressing health issues in regional South Australia. My questions to the minister are:

1. Does the Minister for Regional Development support calls to increase funding for regional health care? If so, what actions has the minister personally undertaken to advocate for the South Australian regional communities?

2. As we learnt from the announcement that there are currently no SA recipients from the Innovative Models of Care Program so far—this is very concerning—will the minister commit to lobbying her colleagues to ensure there is necessary funding for health care in South Australian regions?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:57): I thank the honourable member for her question. Whilst some aspects of the question should be referred directly to the Minister for Health, there are certainly some that I am able to answer in a general sense. I think it is positive that that report—I think the one that was referred to—showed that South Australia has the second best life expectancy of any regional area in the country. While that is positive, clearly there is still far more to do.

We have increased the budget for regional health services by $165 million over the past two years. This is across a range of services and programs to ensure that people living in regional and rural South Australia have access to quality health care. This includes recruiting more than 150 additional ambulance officers in regional South Australia during our term of government, out of 350 statewide.

Also, of course, the Malinauskas Labor government doubled the Patient Assistance Transport Scheme fuel subsidy from 16¢ to 32¢ per kilometre for specialist services that are not currently available in regional South Australia. That was the first major increase to PATS in more than 20 years. Those are some of the things we are doing to address regional health, but we are well aware there is still more to do.