Country Health Services update

Thursday 16 March 2017
Country Health Services update

As reported in recent media, I am very concerned about the State Government's recent announcement that general surgery, gynaecology and urology services are to cease at Yorketown Hospital from 1 April 2017.

Alarming too, is the fact this decision was made without consultation with the broader community nor myself as the Local Member - and worse, that local members of the YP Health Advisory Committee were told not to talk publicly about the imminent loss of services prior to the announcement being made (including, explicitly, not to inform me).

Of further concern is the fact it appears that no Regional Impact Assessment Statement (RIAS)has been prepared to measure the impact of the decision, which is against State Government policy. I have lodged Freedom of Information requests for these documents and details of the public consultation undertaken prior to this decision, but suspect none exist given the Minister who would have had to sign off on the relevant RIAS, Minister Geoff Brock, declared last week he had no responsibility on the matter, it being "not in my portfolio area".

There is growing concern around regional South Australia that such cuts in rural public health services are to become commonplace, and that we are again having to gear up to fight to retain services just like we did back in 2007.

I attended a public meeting in Quorn last night organised by local doctor, Dr Tony Lian Lloyd. The town hall was packed with a crowd of about 370 people who fear the role of country hospitals, the lifeblood of many small townships, is being diminished by stealth, threatening the economic viability of rural doctors and, by extension, service delivery to patients.

Supportive medical professionals travelled from all over the State to attend, including from Mount Gambier, Robe, Kimba, the Barossa, Burra, Cleve, and Yorke Peninsula. Among the guest speakers were Shadow Minister for Health Stephen Wade MLC, Federal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey MP and Member for Stuart Dan Van Holst Pellekaan MP, as well as representatives from Local Government, the Rural Doctors Association and the Nurses Midwifery Association.

Among attendees were Local Mayors Ray Agnew (Yorke Peninsula), Cynthia Axford (Barunga West) and Rodney Reid (Wakefield Regional Council).

Despite invitations, noted absences were Minister for Health the Hon. Jack Snelling MP and Minister for Regional Development the Hon. Geoff Brock.

Whilst I still await a reply to correspondence sent 24 February to Minister Snelling requesting a briefing on the decision to cease a significant portion of surgical services at Yorketown Hospital, I have today again written to him, this time requesting a six month delay of the 1 April cessation deadline.

This time will allow for proper community consultation surrounding this decision, which appears to emanate from a lack of government investment and planning ahead.

The Marshall Liberal team recently released welcome health policy which recognises the need for local Health Advisory Councils to have stronger input into local health service decision-making. Such policy in place now would have gone a long way to avoiding the current widespread community concern and alarm.