Yorketown Hospital – Hansard 29 March 2017
Mr GRIFFITHS ( Goyder ) ( 15:07 :28 ): I want to talk about the Yorketown Hospital, which is an area of grave concern for the people of Yorke Peninsula. Members would be aware that yesterday I asked the Minister for Health questions about the lack of information flow to the community about the reduction in surgical procedures at that hospital, originally intended to be removed on 1 April but now apparently it has been stretched out to some date that we have no knowledge of.
I want to set the scene about how this has occurred in a completely distasteful way to me where there has been no information flow to the community and none to me on behalf of that community. About six weeks ago, I was in Moonta meeting with some constituents and heard a rumour about the removal of surgical procedures. Upon returning to my electorate office that day, I contacted the chair of the Yorke Peninsula Health Advisory Committee (HAC) via email, a man I know quite well, a man I respect. Unfortunately, he did not get back to me—not until after a decision had been announced—and that is because the Yorke Peninsula Health Advisory Committee had been told that they could not talk to me.
Each member in this place is able to appoint a representative to their HAC, and those who are nodding understand that. It relies upon the feedback from those HAC direct representatives to us so that we know what is going on amongst the other people we talk to. That person, when I spoke to them for the Yorke Peninsula HAC after the announcement was made, said to me they specifically asked their departmental officer, can they talk to their local member, and they were told no.
The Yorketown community is up in arms over this. It is hard to express in a polite way the level of frustration they feel. In 2008, when there were different concerns about the future of our hospitals in regional South Australia, there were meetings all over South Australia, but in Yorketown I held one that I chaired. There were 700 people in attendance. This is where people get angry when they are concerned about the impacts on their health services. Since the announcement has been made, Dr George Kokar, a man I have known for nearly 40 years, has come out and expressed a lot of concern about misquotes attributed to him about how apparently there was support for the reduction in these surgical procedures. That is not true. That is not true. He has understood though that, because he provides anaesthetic services to the surgery, if he is not there, it makes it very challenging to do so, and I understand that, but he has expressed concern about the lack of dollar investment in the surgery itself.
He quotes to me that about $220,000 is required. He tells me about the inability of the HAC to get access to the funds that have been donated by local community members or people with an interest in Yorketown Hospital for the future use of the hospital by the HAC. They cannot access those funds, and now it has all come out. I have had three contacts with the Minister for Health in the last three weeks to which I received no reply.
Last week, on a Thursday, I talked to Lainie Anderson, a journalist for the Sunday Mail, who had decided to write a story about the situation, which was published only three days ago. Lainie told me late in the day that she had been advised by Health SA that the lifting of the 1 April date had gone ahead and consultation was finally going to occur with the general community instead of their being kept in the dark, but we do not know how long that will take and what form that will take.
I have contacted people I have known within Health for a long time who are in reasonably senior positions. They did not know anything about it. Ms Vickie Kaminski, the CEO of that organisation, was not working on a Friday, so the person who was assisting was unable to provide any information. There is a level of frustration in the Yorketown community and all the Southern Yorke Peninsula, which unfortunately also exists across many parts of regional South Australia.
Some of us in this chamber were at the meeting at Quorn only a couple of weeks ago where Dr Tony Lian-Lloyd spoke very passionately about impacts across every region. GPs from Mount Gambier at that meeting emphasised the concerns they hold. For Eyre Peninsula, Kimba, Cowell and Cleve, Mr Dean Johnson, who I believe is their HAC chair, was there to present on behalf of the HACs.
There are worries everywhere. There is a concern that investment is not occurring. There is a concern about a downgrade of services, and that makes people really fearful of what the future is going to be. At this stage, I have again called for a public meeting on April 20 at Yorketown. Dr Kokar is going to speak. I have invited minister Snelling and I have also invited minister Brock.
Why was a regional impact assessment review not undertaken before this reduction of the service? Because if it is done, minister Brock has to acknowledge it and sign off on it and it has to go to cabinet. In regard to my call for a regional impact assessment review, the response we received back is that it is just not impacted by a RIAS.
I call on Mr Brock to understand that this regional community is worried about its future. It sees health as being a key to it. The community wants a better flow of information. They want to know how it is going to happen, though. They want to know what their chances are of impacting on a positive decision and an outcome being made and not a negative one, and there is a need for action to take place as soon as possible.